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Photo via Flickr user Brett Monroe.
Photo via Flickr user Brett Monroe.

In terms of technology, a lot has changed since July 4, 1776. We have radios. We have TVs. We have computers.

And most recently, more than half of us now have smartphones.

So as you celebrate the 238th Fourth of July weekend, here are five tech tips you may find useful. From educating you about astronomy to helping you snap that perfect photo of the fireworks display, here are some ways today’s technology can improve your holiday weekend:

Fireworks photos

If you’re watching a fireworks show Friday evening, chances are you may take a few photos with your phone. A few basic tips: Turn off your flash, avoid shakiness, don’t zoom in, tinker with your camera’s exposure settings, and try burst mode.

If you aren’t satisfied with the features of your built-in camera, the Wall Street Journal has some good app recommendations, including Camera+ (iOS and Android) and Nokia Camera (Windows).

Also, if you prefer to just take video, Vhoto is a cool iPhone app that finds the best photos in your videos.

googlemaps2312Offline maps

For those of us taking long drives through and to rural places without that quick 4G LTE connection, knowing how to access Google Maps (iOS, Android) offline can be super useful.

First, you’ll need to have the latest update — 3.0 for iOS; 8.0 Android. Open the app and hit the profile icon in the top right of the search bar. Scroll to the bottom and click on the offline maps widget. Then, simply drag to the area you want saved — pan and zoom appropriately — and hit “save.” You can find your saved offline maps on your profile page.

Alternatively, you can also enter “OK Maps” into the search box when you’re viewing the map. There’s one more way, too: You can bring up an address or place, drag up from the bottom information widget, and select “Save map to use offline.”

A person holds their iPad up to the sky, with Sky Guide runningStar gazing

Once all that smoke from the fireworks dissipates, you may be able to see stars — especially if you’re in an area without much light on the ground.

Sky Guide, which we featured last month, is a digital planetarium for the iPhone and iPad that makes it easy to see all the stars and constellations nearby. When users first fire up the app, they’ll be asked to let it access their location, and it will then show them a 360 degree map of all the stars and constellations around them. Users interested in learning more about a particular star or constellation can tap on it to pull out a drawer with plenty of facts.

For Android users, Sky Map is equally as awesome.

worldcupapp12World Cup

For the first time since 2010, the most important soccer tournament in the world is taking place during 4th of July weekend. Soccer fans who are traveling and don’t want to miss the quarterfinal action — well, you’ve got a few options.

ESPN is streaming all matches at and via the WatchESPN mobile apps (AndroidiOSWindows 8Kindle FireFire TV,ChromecastRokuXbox OneXbox 360). You’ll need a cable subscription that includes ESPN from one of these providers to access the ESPN feeds.

ESPN Radio is also broadcasting every match. The app is available on iOSAndroid and Windows. You can also see local affiliates here, and use the TuneIn app to listen.

If you don’t subscribe to ESPN, check out Onefootball. The app, which is available for just about every mobile platform, includes a graphical representation of who’s on the field for each side at any given time, and what positions they’re playing. Users can see a list of highlights including substitutions, goals and penalty cards.

You can also try the official FIFA World Cup app (iPhone, iPad, Android).

Digital detox

Maybe you are looking forward to spending Fourth of July weekend not having to constantly check your smartphone every five minutes — perhaps a digital detox is in order.

If that’s the case, the simple and cheap way to detach from your gadget is to, well, stop using it. Disable your internet connection, put your phone on silent — heck, just turn it off if you really don’t want to be distracted.

Or, if you’re just not disciplined enough to give up the device — perhaps you’re one of the people who would give up a best friend over a smartphone — the popular Freedom software locks you away from the Internet. However, it’s only available for desktop and Android.

For iOS users, check out this guide from Lifehacker that helps smartphone addicts who want to enjoy the weekend without the distracting device.

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