How to Adjust Your Mac’s Screen Brightness, Manually and Automatically

MacBooks attempt to automatically manage your display brightness for you, dimming the display when you step away from an outlet and adjusting the brightness to suit the overall light level nearby. But you can adjust the brightness manually and even disable these features, if you like.
The brightness hotkeys on a Mac will only allow you to adjust an external display’s brightness if that external display was made by Apple. If you’re using an external monitor made by someone other than Apple, you’ll need to adjust the brightness directly on the display itself, as described later in this piece.


How to Adjust Brightness Manually on a Mac

You’ll find brightness-adjusting keys on your Mac keyboard, whether you’re using a MacBook or a Mac desktop with an Apple keyboard.
On a MacBook, look at the top-left corner of your keyboard. The F1 and F2 keys will decrease and increase your brightness. On a Mac desktop PC, look at the top-right corner of your keyboard. The F14 and F15 keys will do the same–look for the keys with sun logos on them. Just press the keys to decrease and increase your brightness. You’ll see an on-screen overlay appear, showing you the precise brightness level.
If these keys are set up to function as standard F-keys instead of special action keys, you’ll need to press and hold the Fn key as you tap them.

If you’re using a different keyboard with your Mac, you may find the brightness keys in a slightly different place, or you may not see any brightness keys at all. In this case–or if you just prefer using your mouse–you can adjust brightness in OS X, too.
To do so, click the Apple menu and select “System Preferences.” Click the “Displays” icon in the System Preferences window and adjust the “Brightness” slider to your desired level.

How to Adjust Brightness Manually On an External Display

If you’re using an external display made by Apple, you may see a “Brightness” slider in the System Preferences window and be able to control the brightness of your display using the keys on your keyboard.
However, these keys won’t do anything and you won’t have a “Brightness” slider in the System Preferences window if you’re using an external display not made by Apple.
If you’re using a third-party display, you’ll need to adjust the brightness on the display. Look for physical buttons on the display itself, often located near the power button. You may find dedicated “brightness up” and “brightness down” buttons, or you may have to press a “menu” or “options” button and locate this option in an on-screen menu.

How to Automatically Dim the Display When You’re Not Plugged In

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Your MacBook can automatically change its screen brightness when you’re on battery power, dimming your display when you’re on battery and making it brighter when you’re plugged in. This helps  increase your MacBook’s battery life.
To enable or disable this option, open the System Preferences window and click the “Energy Saver” icon. Enable the “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” checkbox under the Battery tab to make your Mac’s screen dimmer when on battery power, or uncheck it to prevent your Mac from dimming the display automatically. Just remember that unchecking it might drain your battery faster.

Unlike on Windows, you can’t customize the exact display brightness levels your Mac uses when it’s plugged in and unplugged here. However, you can adjust your Mac’s display brightness to your desired level, and this option will adjust the display brightness to be slightly dimmer than the brightness you choose.

How to Automatically Adjust Brightness Based on Ambient Light

Macs with built-in ambient light sensors can monitor the light level nearby and automatically adjust the display’s brightness level to be suitable. This means making the display brighter when it’s bright near you, and making the screen dimmer when you’re in the dark.
To find this option, open the System Preferences window from the Apple menu and select “Displays.” Enable “Automatically adjust brightness” and your Mac will use the ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness. Disable this option and your Mac won’t do this.

If you don’t see this option here at all, your Mac doesn’t have an ambient light sensor.
Despite the name, this option only applies to the ambient light sensor. Even if you disable the “Automatically adjust brightness” option, your Mac will still dim the display when you’re on battery power if you have the “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” option enabled.

Using the automatic brightness features won’t stop you from being able to adjust the brightness manually. If you ever don’t like the current brightness level, you can change it with a few keypresses. However, your Mac may automatically increase or decrease the brightness level if the lightning near you changes, and you may have to tweak it again.

How to Update Your Plex Media Library, Manually and Automatically

Besides the media itself, the most important element of a media server software is how up to date it is–you can’t watch videos if the server doesn’t know they’re there. Plex Media Server offers three ways to keep your media collection up to date so you always know what’s available.


Why Would I Want To Do This?

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There are three components to the Plex Media Server experience. There’s the media itself (like your TV shows), there’s the actual Plex Media Server that manages your media, and then there are the Plex client applications you access the server from via your Apple TV, your iPhone, or other devices.
Because you aren’t directly browsing the folders that contain your videos, it is critically important that Plex Media Server’s database be up to date. If you’re away on a business trip, for example, trying to catch up on your favorite shows, but Plex Media Server hasn’t updated to include the latest episodes, you’re out of luck. Until the library is updated, you won’t be able to watch them.
Thankfully, the Plex Media Server software has multiple ways you can ensure your media list is always current including manual updating and multiple ways to automate the update process.

How to Manually Update Your Library

The simplest method is to manually update your library. Even if you follow the later steps in this guide and completely automate the update process, you should always be familiar with the manual update process as it’s a great way to force an immediate update.
To manually update your Plex library, log into the web control panel for your Plex Media Server. On the main page, select one of your libraries from the left hand navigation pane, as seen below, like your “TV Shows” library.

Within the library, click on the circular arrow icon in the upper right corner.

This will trigger a manual update for that library, and Plex Media Server will rescan the directories assigned to that library. Repeat this process for all other libraries (e.g. Movies and Music) you wish to update.

How to Automatically Update Your Library

Manual updating is great if you need to force the update right that second, but for ease of use and really frictionless user experience, you really want to enable automatic updating.  Not only is automatic updating supremely convenient for you, but it’s practically a necessity if you have other people in your house. If Plex is always up to date then you, the manager of the media server empire, won’t be pestered with questions about whether a favorite show is up to date.
There are several ways you can automate library updates, and you’ll find all of them in a single menu within the settings of your Plex Media Server. Click on the Settings tool icon in the upper right corner of the Plex web interface.

Within the Settings menu select the “Server” tab along the top navigation bar and then select “Library” from the left hand navigation panel.

To see all the available options we’ll be highlighting, you need to click on the “Show Advanced” button to fully expand the library options.

With the advanced options visible, you’ll see the following entries in the Library settings menu:

There’s several options here and you should consider each one based on where your media is stored and your update needs.

Automatic Updates: The Best Option For Nearly Everyone

The top option, “Update my library automatically”, is the ideal one. Nearly every Plex user should check it. The only time automated library updates aren’t a viable solution is for Plex users with their media stored on a different computer from the Plex Media Server program (since the automatic detection of folders doesn’t typically work for folders on a network share).
Checking “Run a partial scan when changes are detected” is an additional option that can be paired with the automatic library update. This option will decrease library update time and amount of system resources used for library updates. It’s not a huge deal on a powerful system, but its a time saver regardless (and it’s quite useful if your Plex Media Server hardware is underpowered).

Scheduled Updates: Great for Media On Network Shares

If you find that automatic library updating doesn’t work for your system, you can always use the “Update my library periodically” setting to set an update schedule. This option works for both local files and files located on a network share (that is, a computer other than the one Plex Media Server is installed on), since it manually scans the entire directory structure at the frequency you specify. You can specify the update frequency in increments as low as every 15 minutes all the way up to once a day.

Automatic Trash: The Housekeeping You May Not Want

Finally there’s a small consideration regarding library cleanup. By default, the option “Empty trash automatically after every scan” is checked. If you have a fixed library (e.g. all your media is on a specific server on fixed internal drives) it’s a good idea to leave this checked. That way if you delete a bunch of stuff from your media server, Plex will automatically tidy up after you and remove all the entries for that media.
If, however, you use external drive that are sometimes removed from the Plex Media Server computer, you have media shared on the Plex Media Server that is located on a network share of another computer that isn’t always on, or some other situation where media you wish to keep in your library is not always online, do not check the “Empty trash” option. If you do, every time Plex runs an update scan and fails to see the offline media it will delete it (only to turn around and rescan the media, download all the metadata, and so on, the next time it’s online).

Once you have automatic updating configured just the way you want, you can sit back and enjoy one of the best benefits of Plex Media Server: always up-to-date and centralized management of your entire media collection.

How to Adjust Your PC’s Screen Brightness, Manually and Automatically

You probably need to change your screen brightness regularly. When it’s bright outside, you want to turn it up so you can see. When you’re in a dark room, you’ll want it dim so it doesn’t hurt your eyes. Decreasing your screen brightness will also help save you power and increase your laptop’s battery life.
Aside from manually changing the screen brightness, you can have Windows change it automatically in a variety of ways. Windows can change it based on whether you’re plugged in, based on how much battery power you have left, or using an ambient light sensor built into many modern devices.


How to Adjust Brightness Manually on a Laptop or Tablet

On most laptop keyboards, you’ll find shortcut keys that allow you to quickly increase and decrease your brightness. Often, these keys are part of the row of F-keys–that’s F1 through F12–that appear above the number row on your keyboard. To adjust the screen brightness, look for an icon that corresponds to brightness–often a sun logo or something similar–and press the keys.
These are often function keys, which means you may have to press and hold the Fn key on your keyboard, often located near the bottom-left corner of your keyboard, while you press them.

You can also adjust the display brightness from within Windows as well. This is especially helpful if your keyboard doesn’t have these keys, or if you’re using a tablet and you have to do it within software.
On Windows 10, you can click the battery icon in the notification area and click the brightness tile that appears. This adjusts the brightness in increments of 25% each time you tap it. You can also swipe in from the right or open the Action Center from your system tray and use the quick settings tile there.

You’ll find this option in the Settings app on Windows 10, too. Open the Settings app from your Start menu or Start screen, select “System,” and select “Display.” Click or tap and drag the “Adjust brightness level” slider to change the brightness level.

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8, and don’t have a Settings app, this option available in the Control Panel. Open the Control Panel, select “Hardware and Sound,” and select “Power Options.” You’ll see a “Screen brightness” slider at the bottom of the Power Plans window.

You’ll also see this option in the Windows Mobility Center. Launch it by right-clicking the Start button on Windows 10 and 8.1 and selecting “Mobility Center,” or pressing the Windows key + X on Windows 7. Change the “Display brightness” slider in the window that appears.

How to Adjust Brightness Manually on an External Display

Most of the methods in this article are designed for laptops, tablets, and all-in-one PCs. However, if you’re using a desktop PC with an external display–or even connecting an external display to a laptop or tablet–you’ll need to adjust his setting on the external display itself, and you usually won’t be able to do it automatically.

Look for “brightness” buttons on the display and use them to adjust the display brightness.  You may instead need to press some sort of “Menu” or “Options” button before you can access an on-screen display that will allow you to increase or decrease the brightness. You’ll often find these buttons near the power button on a computer monitor. With some monitors, you may also be able to adjust your screen’s brightness with an app like ScreenBright or Display Tuner, though they won’t work with all monitors.

How to Automatically Adjust Brightness When You’re Plugged In

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You can set different display brightness levels on your laptop or tablet based on whether or not you’re plugged into an outlet or not. For example, you could have it set to a high brightness level when you’re plugged in, and a lower one when you’re on battery power. Windows would then automatically adjust your brightness.
To adjust this, open the Control Panel. Select “Hardware and Sound,” select “Power Options,” and click the “Change plan settings” link next to the power plan you’re using. You’re probably using the Balanced power plan.
Configure different screen brightness levels for “On battery” and “Plugged in” under “Adjust plan brightness.” This setting is tied to your power plan. You can configure different screen brightness levels for different power plans and switch between them, if you like (though we don’t think power plans are really necessary).

How to Automatically Adjust Brightness Based on Remaining Battery Life

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You can automatically adjust your display’s backlight based on how much battery power your laptop or tablet has left, too. On Windows 10, you can use the Battery Saver feature to do this. Open the Settings app, select “System,” and select “Battery saver.” Click or tap the “Battery saver settings” link.
Ensure the “Lower screen brightness while in battery saver” option is enabled, then choose the percentage at which you’d like Battery Saver to kick in. When Battery Saver activates at that level, it will decrease your backlight and saving you power. By default, Battery Saver kicks in when you have 20% battery remaining.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the exact brightness level Battery Saver will choose. You can also manually enable this feature from the battery icon.

How to Automatically Adjust Brightness Based on Ambient Light

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Many modern laptops and tablets have an ambient brightness sensor, which works similarly to the one found on smartphones and tablets. Windows can use the sensor for “adaptive brightness,” automatically increasing your display brightness when you’re in a bright area, and decreasing the brightness when you’re in a dark room.
This is convenient, but some people find that it gets in the way, too. It may automatically decrease or increase your display brightness when you don’t want it to, and you may prefer managing brightness manually with the settings above. You may want to try it on and off to decide which you like better.
To enable or disable this feature on Windows 10, open the Settings app, select “System,” and select “Display.” Turn the “Change brightness automatically when lighting changes” option on or off. You’ll only see this option if your device has an ambient brightness sensor.

You can change this setting through the Control Panel, too. Open the Control Panel, select “Hardware and sound,” select “Power Options,” click “Change plan settings” next to the power plan you’re using, and click “Change advanced power settings.”
Expand the “Display” section here, and then expand the “Enable adaptive brightness” section. The options here let you control whether adaptive brightness is used when you’re on battery or when you’re plugged in. For example, you could disable it when you’re plugged in and leave it enabled when you’re on battery power.

You can adjust your screen brightness both automatically and manually, and both have their time and place. Enabling automatic brightness won’t prevent you from tweaking your brightness with hotkeys or the options in Windows whenever you feel like it, either, so you have nothing to lose by trying all the above options out.

How to Block Calls in Android, Manually and Automatically

It’s dinner time. You’re just sitting down when you get a call. On the other line, a robotic voice says: “We have important information regarding your credit accounts. Please hold to speak to a representative.”
How many times has that scenario happened to you or someone you know? Even if the answer is “once,” that directly translates to “too many times.” It’s scammy, annoying, and downright rude.
If you have an Android phone, though, you don’t have to deal with it. There are actually a few different ways to go about blocking numbers on Android, and we’re going to talk about a few of the easiest ones today.


Block Numbers Right From the Dialer in Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and Up

If you’re on a phone that already has the latest version of Android (Marshmallow), then we have good news: call blocking is just a few taps away. This is a long-requested feature that Google finally brought to the table starting with Android 6.0.
The easiest way to do this is to long-press the number in your call log, then select “Block number.”

Unfortunately, that only works on stock Android, so if you have a Samsung Galaxy device (or other non-stock phone), you’ll have to use the slightly more convoluted process: go directly to the call blocking list.
The good news is that accessing the call block list is basically the same on every device, though the menus may be named slightly different things—for example, on stock Nexus devices, you tap the three-dot overflow button to access the dialer’s menu, where you’ll tap “more” on Samsung phones to get to the same place.
So, with that in mind, go ahead and jump into the dailer (or the “phone app” as it’s often referred to). Once there, tap the three-dot menu in the top-right (again, on Samsung phones it reads “more”).

Choose “Settings,” then the “Call blocking” option.

This is where you’ll add the numbers of callers you’d like to ignore. Simply tap the “Add number” or “Block list” option, and key in whatever the number is. You can also choose a contact here, assuming you’ve saved the number of the annoying caller.

When someone from this number calls you, the phone will auto-block it. No ringing, no notification. Nothing. This raises the question: if someone calls and the phone doesn’t ring, did they ever really call at all?


Automatically Send Calls to Voicemail in All Versions of Android

If you’re on an older version of Android that doesn’t have automatic call blocking, there’s another option: automatically send calls to voicemail. This method also works on stock devices running Marshmallow, if you’d prefer not to block calls entirely, but it’s not available on new Samsung phones like the S7 or S7 Edge.
Since Google decided that it makes sense to have two apps that can handle contacts (the dialer and Contacts app), there are two different ways to get this done. Regardless of which app you’d rather use, the first thing you’ll need to do is navigate to the contact you want to ignore, then edit their entry in your address book.

Once you’re in the “edit” menu, tap the three-dot overflow button in the top right. In this menu, there’s an option that reads “All calls to voicemail.” Tick that box.

The biggest difference between this option and auto-block is that it’s universal for the contact. So if you have two numbers listed for the same person, it will send both of them to voicemail; with the blocking feature, you can just block one but allow the other to get through.
The result here is identical to the blocking feature: no call, no notification (unless they leave a voicemail, of course). It’s almost as if they never called at all. Spooky.

Block Suspected Scammers and Spammers with Mr. Number

If you’re looking for what’s arguably the smartest ways to block calls on your Android phone, look not further than Mr. Number. This is an incredibly full-featured app, but we’re just going to focus on its call-blocking capabilities. Once you get in on the block action, though, you should definitely explore the app a bit more. It’s neat.
If you’re just looking to block all telemarketer or spam calls, Mr. Number can actually this automatically. It has three  types of auto-blocking: scam/fraud, suspected spam, and hidden numbers. Each of those categories can be toggled individually, too. It can also block individual numbers.
To enable these features, the first thing you’ll need to do is (of course), install Mr. Number. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I’m doing it anyway. For completeness.
Once the app is installed, open it and tap the overflow button in the top right corner, then select “Settings.”
In the Settings menu, there’s a section titled “Call Blocking.” That’s what you’re looking for. Tap the “Blocking Enabled” button. It may also read “Blocking Disabled” if you just installed the app.

In this menu, you can choose to block specific numbers, or toggle the aforementioned categories. There are actually several automated options here: Scam or Fraud, Suspected Spam, Hidden numbers, International Numbers, and Not in my Contacts. You can control each of these as needed.

Alternatively, you can just tap the “Numbers on my block list” option to add specific numbers. Just tap the plus sign in the bottom right to open the blocking menu. You can choose from a few different options: a number, a contact, numbers that begin with specific digits, or recent calls or texts. That’s crazy-granular control. You can block an entire area code if you want!

When someone on your block list tries to call (regardless of you entered the number manually or it’s part of the auto-blocking feature), the phone will ring for about half a second or so before Mr. Number can kick in. Once it does, however, it’ll send the caller to voicemail and leave a notification letting you know that it blocked a number. You can then tap the notification to read more information about the number, including comments left by other users as to what the nature of the call was. Neat, right?

Block Calls with Google Voice

If you’re a Google Voice user, you have the ability to block calls from your Google Voice settings. Google Voice will play a message saying the number has been disconnected, so this may even fool telemarketers and other annoying callers into removing you from their spam lists.
Just log in to your Google Voice account online, locate the recent caller you want to block, click the More link, and select Block caller.

See if Your Carrier Can Help

Carriers have the ability to block calls, but they often don’t make it easy. Like almost every other service they offer, it will probably cost you additional money. Some carriers may help you block calls if you contact them, some may direct you to their paid services, and some may say it isn’t possible. This all varies from carrier to carrier, so you’ll need to check your carrier’s website, or call them and ask what services they offer.

Spam calls are annoying and intrusive, not to mention they waste your time. Fraudulent calls can be scary—oftentimes they sound really official, which can lead unknowing users to actually turn over personal data (or worse!). Fortunately, there are solutions across the board—whether you want to keep spammers at bay or block your ex from blowing your phone up (metaphorically, not literally; unfortunately there’s not an app for that).