Latest StoriesTech
    The 8 Must-Have Apps for Your New Android Phone

    Picking up the latest and greatest Android phone is only the first step. The apps on your phone are just as important as having fast hardware or a razor-sharp screen, but there are so many apps out there. Which apps are worthy of your phone? Here are the eight must-have apps for an Android phone.

    Authy

    The internet is a scary place, and even as strong password might not be enough to protect your accounts all the time anymore. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is the best way to ensure no one but you accesses your accounts, but the default SMS option for 2FA is susceptible to SIM hijacking. The best way to use 2FA is with an authentication app, and the best I've found is Authy.

    This app is entirely free and easy to set up. All services that support auth apps (eg. Google, Twitter, and many more) will work with Authy. You just need to scan a QR code, and Authy generates numeric codes for your accounts. The best thing about Authy is that it encrypts and syncs your auth tokens between devices. Thus, you can generate codes on your phone, tablet, or PC. You need to know the decryption password for the tokens to access them on a new device, but the added security is worth it. Authy is completely free.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 39: High-End Photogrammetry for VR

    Virtual reality environments can be built manually, like video game levels, but they can also be constructed using real-world imagery and scanning. We visit the offices of Cyark, an organization that travels around the world documenting historical sites using advanced scanning equipment, converting some of those scans to explore in VR.

    Hands-On with Skydio R1 Autonomous Drone!

    We go hands-on with the Skydio R1, a camera-equipped drone that not only flies autonomously, but can actually track you and avoid almost any obstacle in its flight path. And from our first test, it actually works--we couldn't get it to crash. Skydio CEO and co-founder Adam Bry walks us through the computer vision technology that makes the R1 work, and we share our impressions from the impressive test flight.

    Show and Tell: Augmented Reality Model of the Moon

    We check out Astroreality's Lunar Pro, a detailed model of the moon that works with a companion app to show some extra details through augmented reality. While the model itself is nicely made and finished, the software experience leaves much to be desired. It's a neat concept that disappoints with its execution.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 38: Sprint Vector and In Death!

    Jeremy and Norm review two new game releases. The first is Sprint Vector, the VR racing game that's like a mix between cross country skiing and Mario Kart--it's one of the more physically demanding VR games we've played. We also play a community recommendation: In Death, a rougelike we found both thrilling and rewarding.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Zealio Switches

    The most important part of any custom mechanical keyboard is, arguably, the switches. They come in various weights, designs, and feedback types, all of which can completely change the typing or gaming experience. There's one name in particular you'll hear mechanical keyboard enthusiasts throw around a lot: Zealios. The Zealio is a custom Cherry-style tactile switch that has earned legions of fans despite a high price tag. For many keyboard fans, it's the "endgame" switch, but what makes Zealios so special?

    Zealios are tactile switches, which means they don't produce a click when you press them. However, there's a bump you can feel just above the actuation point. They were designed by ZealPC and manufactured by Gateron, which is a maker of Cherry "clone" switches. After Cherry's patents expired in 2012, Gateron started making switches that replicate the Cherry look and feel at a lower price. Zealios aren't cheaper, though.

    The original idea with the Zealio was to imitate the Ergo Clear, a sort of "Frankenswitch" that people have been making for years by putting lighter springs in a Cherry MX Clear and adding lubricant to the stem. So, the Zealio has a big tactile bump and comes in few different spring weights, most of them heavier than mainstream switches like browns and blues.

    You can identify Zealios by their vibrant purple stem and transparent housing. Otherwise, they look very much like a Cherry switch. They work with Cherry-style keycaps and PCBs as well. The switches come in 62g, 65g, 67g, and 78g weights. The 62g is like a heavier MX brown with a larger bump, and the 78g is probably the closest to an Ergo Clear. While you can add lubricant to Zealios by opening up the housing, they're already impressively smooth. Gateron's tooling allows for a very uniform texture on the slider, whereas Cherry switches are slightly rougher.

    Testing: Traxxas TRX-4 RC Rock Crawler

    Portal axles are a feature sometimes found on full-scale off-road cars and trucks. The basic concept is that gears located near the wheel hubs allow the axle to be offset above the middle of the wheel. This provides increased ground clearance, which is often a handy feature when off-roading.

    Until recently, I had never seen an RC vehicle with portal axles. That changed when I found an advertisement for the Traxxas TRX-4. It includes these types of axles as standard equipment. I was interested to see if portal axles are actually useful in 1/10-scale. Traxxas provided a TRX-4 Tactical Unit ($450) for this review.

    TRX-4 Overview

    The TRX-4 is a factory-built model that includes a 4-channel 2.4GHz radio system. You will have to provide four AA alkaline batteries for the transmitter as well as a battery for the vehicle. There is a wide variety of applicable vehicle batteries, so I'll cover that in more detail a little later.

    My first impression while unboxing the TRX-4 was that it is quite heavy. I later weighed it and confirmed that this truck is indeed beefier than my other 1/10-scale vehicles. The TRX-4 comes in at 7.2 pounds without a battery. My other 1/10-scale vehicles average about 4 to 5 pounds. As you will see, the TRX-4 is heavier for good reason.

    The polycarbonate body is factory painted and includes bolt-on scale details.

    Even the body is notably heavy. Like most RC truck bodies, it is made of polycarbonate (Lexan). This one comes pre-painted in a 3-tone camouflage pattern. Its extra weight comes from bolt-on scale details such as a spare tire, gas can, and fender skirts.

    The good news here is that the TRX-4 is a rock crawler, trail rig, and basher, so a little extra weight is usually no big deal. Once you include the "cool factor" of the features that make this truck big-boned, I doubt you'll mind the extra baggage. It certainly hasn't bothered me.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (February 2018)

    It's a rough time to buy a phone—well, it always is, but now especially. We're probably just a few weeks away from learning what the Galaxy S9 will look like, and that makes purchasing a new phone from carriers risky. At least things have shaken out on the unlocked side. Google continues to offer the best long-term bet, but there are some cheaper options if you don't fancy the high price of a Pixel.

    Carrier Phones: Note 8 or wait

    Buying from a carrier is appealing to many consumers because carriers offer easy monthly payments on devices, as well as frequent deals when you buy multiple devices. However, the selection of phones is somewhat limited, and you have to put up with more bloated software. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has offered the best overall option for most people buying from carriers as of late, but the time has come to leave that device in the past. Right now, you should get a Note 8 or simply wait to see what the Galaxy S9 holds.

    Let's talk about the Note 8 first, which is basically a Galaxy S8 on steroids with a stylus. It has a Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Performance is a little better than the Galaxy S8, which I assume is because Samsung targets power users with the Note series. The 3,300mAh battery will get you through a day easily, but not much more.

    The S Pen stylus is a big selling point of the Note 8, and it's one of the primary reasons you might still be justified buying this phone. This phone includes features like handwriting recognition and improved screenshot capture. The Galaxy S9 won't support the S Pen, so we're still at least six months away from this phone's replacement. That stylus is paired with a larger 6.4-inch screen with the same 1440 x 2960 resolution as the GS8. The OLED panel on this phone is slightly better than the GS8 when it comes to brightness and color accuracy.

    Combining 3D Printed Models with Laser-Cut Parts

    Sean shares one of his personal projects: a LEGO-inspired computer console that's based off of the classic blue LEGO computer brick. He originally designed it to be purely 3D-printed, but has been experimenting with using laser cutting to replace some of its parts. Here are some of his lessons learned from combining 3D printing with laser cutting on our Universal Systems laser cutter.

    Show and Tell: Fat Shark 101 FPV Quadcopter

    We take the new Fat Shark 101 quadcopter for a spin to see if this ready-to-fly system can be a good entry point for FPV drone racing. Fat Shark puts quadcopter, transmitter, and FPV goggles in one package that works outside the box, but its features may be too limiting for drone fans.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cake, Game Dev Tycoon, and A Hollow Doorway

    There was a time when the Google Play Store was lacking in content. The only benefit was that it was easy to find the handful of great apps on the platform. Now there are many, many apps, and quite a few of them are good. Now the best way to find them is to check our Google Play App Roundup. Every week we bring you the best new, and newly updated app in the store. Just click the links to head right to the Google Play Store and download everything for yourself.

    Cake

    All your standard browsers work in more or less the same way, but what if that way isn't ideal for mobile? Cake is a new browser that claims to be designed with mobile in mind. In some ways it's like a "regular" browser, but search is all swipeable. You just page through results instead of using the regular search page, which could be a real time saver.

    When launched, Cake offers a text entry field where you can input a URL or search term. Should you want to search, Cake offers trending results right below the field. After you search, the first result (via your choice of Google or Bing) loads in a new tab. Swipe to the right, and you get the next search result. These pages are already loaded, so there's no waiting as you move from one to the next.

    Cake loads the top ten results in this swipeable interface. If one of these is the page you want, you can begin scrolling up and down as you normally would. In the event one of the top ten results isn't right, you can go back to the first page and swipe to the left. That's where the standard search results page lives. In my testing, I've found the swipeable UI to be good for basic searches. If you're looking for a very specific page, it's easier to look at the regular results and tap the link you want.

    There's a persistent bar at the bottom of the screen with quick access to features like bookmarks and tabs, but there's also a big search button right in the middle. That brings up search categories like videos and images, so these more specific searches work with the swipeable interface.

    When you're looking a regular web page, Cake works like most browsers. You can add bookmarks, open links in new tabs, and so on. There's also built-in ad-blocking. One thing I will note, the overall experience is a bit sluggish. This is most noticeable when you're in the search interface, which I assume has something to do with loading all those results at the same time. However, even a single page has a touch of lag when scrolling.

    If the developers can optimize a little more, Cake could be a cool alternative to Chrome or Firefox.

    How To Keep Action Cameras Warm on RC Vehicles

    You all know that I like to put action cameras on my RC vehicles to record first-person video footage. I've recently had a little trouble with that because of the low temperatures here in Buffalo. The cold was making my cameras shut down in the middle of a flight or drive. The good news is that I've found a simple and cheap DIY solution!

    The Problem

    My current onboard camera of choice is the RunCam 2. I have two of them and a few extra batteries. All of this equipment gets used frequently. Until my recent experiences using the cameras in cold weather, I've found them to be quite reliable.

    When operating my RunCam2s in freezing temperatures, their performance is unpredictable. Everything is usually fine if the camera is on a tripod of other static mount. But all bets are off once you strap it to something that moves it through the air. Unlike other action cameras, such as GoPro Heroes, the RunCam2 does not use a protective outer case. The camera body is directly exposed to the frigid atmosphere. Vent holes in the body also allow the cold air to reach the electronics within.

    The RunCam2 is my favorite action camera to use onboard my RC models, but mine kept shutting down in cold weather.

    I suspected that the root cause of the problem was the camera's battery. LiPo cells just do not work very well when cold. In this case, the LiPo battery was getting so cold that it couldn't keep up with the camera's demands. I began placing microwavable heating pads in my camera bag to keep the batteries warm until right before I used them. While the cameras ran longer, they still shut down in flight.

    The Fix

    I needed to find a way to seal the vent holes in the case and also provide some degree of thermal insulation. Whatever method I used would also have to be lightweight and low-profile. After exploring a few potential options, I decided to borrow a page from the cosplay handbook and use EVA foam.

    Google Play App Roundup: Feedster, Cat Tower, and Shapes

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Feedster

    In this go-go digital world of ours, you're probably getting news and social content from multiple sources. It can be tedious to go to different apps and websites to make that happen, but Feedster might be the answer. It has a lot in common with a regular feed reader app, but it plugs into more sources and has a clean interface.

    Feedster starts by asking you to log into your account on services like Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and Feedly. It pulls all that content in and turns it into a single feed. The feed is organized by some process that I cannot discern. It's not chronological, so it's probably some mix of popularity and timeliness. By default, it only shows you content you have not seen before, but you can change that in settings.

    Each item in your feed tells you what service spawned it right at the top. You can tap on any of them to get an expanded view of the content, which varies based on what it is. Instagram posts load the full image and comments, by a news story from Reddit or Feedly loads the URL in a Chrome Custom Tab. You can always swipe to the right to get back to the main feed. There's also a floating button at the top of the screen to zip you back up to the top for quick refreshing.

    In general, I'm very impressed with how well Feedster handles content from all these sources. You can actually interact with the content like you would in a native app. For example, you can view comments and up/downvote on Reddit posts. For Twitter, you can see the full conversation, reply, retweet, or like a post.

    In the free version of the app, you get a light and dark theme. The paid version adds a number of other themes, though. The upgrade also removes the ads interspersed with your content. They aren't too annoying, but the upgrade is only $2.99.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 37: HTC Vive Pro Hands-On!

    Our weekly show covering the fast-developing world of virtual and augmented reality technologies is back! To kick off 2018, we visit HTC's San Francisco office to try the HTC Vive Pro headset, a surprise announcement at this year's CES that improves video resolution, audio quality, and ergonomic design. Here's how it compares with the original Vive.

    Google Play App Roundup: Scheduled, Hexa Turn, and Skullgirls

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Scheduled

    You probably already use your phone to make reminders, but how often are those reminders related to sending a message? Ask someone about something or wish that guy a happy whatever—you know the drill. Scheduled is an app that takes the middleman out and lets you schedule messages for the future.

    Scheduled works with a wide variety of messaging apps and services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. There's also support for good old-fashioned SMS. In fact, SMS is the most powerful option in Scheduled. When setting up an SMS, you can choose to have the app send the message automatically when you configure it.

    To set up a message, simply pick a contact, date, time, and repetition. Toggle on the auto-send feature if you're sending an SMS and you want to speed things along. The app fires off a notification at the appointed hour, allowing you to quickly open up the message details. A tap on the send button brings up menu of supported apps. Tap the one you want to use, and the message is dropped in.

    Again, SMS is the coolest part of the app as Scheduled can simply act as the SMS sender. That's a single tap to send, or no taps if you choose to send automatically. You can schedule as many messages as you want in the app, and there's even an option to sync the birthdays in your calendar for easy messaging of happy birthday wishes.

    The basic functionality is free, but you might be wondering why the app's reviews in the Play Store are a bit mixed. Well, people aren't jazzed about the payment model. The app has some ads, and the auto-sending feature is locked unless you pay. Oddly, the developer has opted for a subscription model. It's $0.99 per month for the premium features. A lot of people will probably steer clear for that reason, but if you use this app frequently, I can see the $12 annual cost making some sense.

    Episode 432 - Just for the Taste of It - 1/18/18
    Norm is still away at WETA workshop in New Zealand, so Kishore and Jeremy are joined by TekThing co-host Shannon Morse to discuss the Great CES blackout of 2018 (12:40), her hands-on impressions of the new Vive Pro (22:15), the potential Studio Ghibli themepark (1:09:40), and to celebrate Shake Shack expanding to San Francisco, we rank our favorite chain burgers (1:12:00). And yes, Kishore is still reeling from the huge Diet Coke announcement. Check out Shannon on TekThing (https://www.youtube.com/tekthing) and Hak5 (https://www.hak5.org/shows/threatwire). And special shout out to Danica Chan for designing our new podcast set!
    00:00:00 / 01:32:26