3/26/2024: Is Bitwarden worth paying for?


Why I’m paying for Bitwarden now

The case for emergency earbuds, an unusual online calculator, and an even cheaper MacBook

When I started managing my passwords through Bitwarden a few years ago, I had no intention of ever paying for it.

Bitwarden’s generous free tier was the entire reason I switched from LastPass back in early 2021. At the time, LastPass was preparing to cut off free password sync across phones and computers, making it worthless to me. By comparison, Bitwarden syncs all your passwords across an unlimited number of devices at no charge, and I saw no need to pay extra for its premium features.

But three years later, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s not because Bitwarden has cut back on free features—the free tier remains as robust as ever—but because of external factors that finally made a subscription seem worthwhile.

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Need to know

DOJ sues Apple: The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing it of monopolizing the premium smartphone market and inflating prices for customers. The complaint covers Apple’s lock-in tactics with iMessage and the Apple Watch, its obstacles for cloud gaming services, and the fact that you can’t buy e-books through Amazon’s Kindle app, among other things.

None of this will mean much for you anytime soon, as the lawsuit will take years to play out. But in the meantime I did enjoy Sarah Jeong’s analysis on how the DOJ complaint is “pure nerd rage,” aimed at the hypernerds like me who get worked up about lock-in and open ecosystems to begin with.

Chrome’s security upgrade: Google has overhauled the way it blocks unsafe websites in Chrome via its Safe Browsing system. Instead of downloading a list of unsafe sites periodically, the browser now checks the sites you visit in real-time, using partner servers that prevent Google from collecting that data. Google says the average malicious site is online for no longer than 10 minutes, rendering the old system inadequate.

Of note: While many other browsers also rely on Google’s Safe Browsing system to block malicious sites—including Safari, Firefox, and Brave—the real-time protection is exclusive to Chrome for now, and Google says it will only open it to outside developers “for non-commercial use cases.” I wonder if we’re about to see a rift in how browsers protect their users.


Tip of the moment

Put cheap earbuds in your bag: A couple years ago, I wrote about my experience with an $18 pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. While I seldom use them over my AirPods Pro (even with an Android phone), I always throw them in my bag before long trips, figuring a spare pair could come in handy.

I’m glad I did, because last week I lost my AirPods and had no way of recovering them. It’s a long story, but in the end those spare earbuds became my only way to play music and videos on my phone without bothering anyone else.

Amazon is awash in wireless earbuds that cost less than $25. Consider picking a pair—ideally one with solid user reviews or from an accessory brand you recognize—and returning them if they’re terrible, or otherwise stashing them in your travel bag for emergencies. You never know when you might need them.


Now try this

Calculator plus notepad: Numbr is a free web app for performing mathematical calculations inside of a text editor. You can define variables with an equal sign, modify the numbers without redoing the entire calculation, and add useful written context, like this:

Dinner = $8 salad + 2x $18 pasta + $12 dessert + 20% tip

For each line, you’ll see the calculation in the right-hand margin, and you can type Alt+Enter to quickly copy the result to a new line. Currency conversion is supported as well. Numbr is inspired by a Mac and iOS app called Soulver, but is free and works in any browser.

Enjoy suggestions like these? Here’s nearly every app I’ve ever recommended in this newsletter.

Annotate your Google Docs: Following up on last week’s Google Docs guest post, the Android app now supports handwritten notes and freeform highlights over any text document. Just tap the pencil icon with the little squiggle next to it, then use your finger or a stylus (if your device includes one) to write. The bottom toolbar lets you switch colors and brush types.

It’s unclear when annotation support will expand beyond Android, if ever, but once you’ve added some handwriting, it should appear in Google Docs on any device.


Around the web


Spend wisely

Walmart is selling a MacBook directly for the first time, and it’s the M1 MacBook Air from 2020 that Apple recently discontinued through its own store. It costs $699 through Walmart’s website—a permanent $300 discount off the original price—and will soon be available in select stores. (While third-party merchants have sold MacBooks through Walmart’s site, the retailer has never done so itself.)

Worth noting: Best Buy still sells the M1 MacBook Air as well, and had it for just $650 last week (though it’s back to full price now). I’ll be sure to let you know if that deal returns.

This week’s bonus deals for paid subscribers include earbuds, an ergonomic mouse, Android phones, and more. Sign up to start getting more deals in every newsletter.


Thanks for reading!

Hey folks, thanks for bearing with me during last week’s sudden change of plans. I appreciate all the well-wishes that came in as well.

Got tech questions for me? Just reply to this email to get in touch.

Until next week,
Jared

Authentic tech advice.

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