Quantcast
Latest StoriesTech
    Google Play App Roundup: Hooks, Atomas, and Quadrush

    It's that time of the week again. Time to shake off the weekend vibe and get back to work. But you can probably spare a few minutes to check out some new apps. This is the Tested Google Play App Roundup, which is where we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just follow the links to Google Play.

    Hooks

    There's a whole world of information out there, and your phone probably has an active internet connection all day long, If only there was some way to get notifications about all those events sent to your phone. That's exactly what Hooks is for--it's a notification service for multiple services and data sources. Want to be notified when a new episode your favorite show airs or when it's going to rain tomorrow? Hooks can tell you that.

    Hooks feels like a bit of a mix between Pushbullet channels and IFTTT. It's not a configurable as IFTTT, but it's somewhat more flexible than Pushbullet. To create a new notification, you have three columns that present different options. There's a full list of all available notifications, one of suggested notifications, and one with the most popular notifications.

    The notifications available in Hooks usually have a few settings you can tweak, but you're mostly at the mercy of the developers with regard to the selection. There's a pretty good list so far, though. You've got feeds that can watch for newly released movies with a certain rating, nearby concerts and events that match certain keywords, weather alerts, sports scores, popular news from various sources, and various tag/keyword alerts for social networks.

    The main screen in Hooks is a timeline of what's been going on in your account lately. It shows recently added notifications, as well as all the notifications that have been triggered. When something pops up, it appears in the notification shade and links you to Hooks. From there, you can open the relevant content in the browser or another app if you want more information.

    Individual notifications can also be edited after you've added them. Maybe you want to change a keyword or alter the rating threshold for a movie alert. You can also enable and disable notification sounds for each one.

    Hooks is a mostly material app. It looks fine, but there's no colored status bar for some reason, and the use of two separate slide-out nav menus seems confusing. Still, it's a neat way to track various events on your phone without wasting battery. Since Hooks is sending push notifications, it's only active when something actually happens. It's free, so give it a look.

    Show and Tell: Palette Modular Controller

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a new custom modular controller he's been testing for photo editing. Palette is a system of programmable buttons, dials, and sliders that tap into Adobe's suite of apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro. It's proven pretty useful for processing convention photos!

    Comic-Con 2015 Show Floor Walking Tour (Single Long Take)

    If you've never been to San Diego Comic-Con, it's difficult to get a sense of just how massive and packed the convention floor really is. Using a stabilized camera on a handheld gimbal, we give you our walking tour of comic-con, shot in a single 20-minute long take! We wade through the crowd to show you how the convention is laid out, step into a few of our favorite booths, and run into a few friends!

    Testing: Palette Modular Controllers

    I was recently sent Palette, a modular controller system designed to assist with photo and video editing. The freeform system, which raised funds for development and production on Kickstarter, just launched pre-orders to the general public. I've been testing it with my Lightroom photo editing, and found that it's sped up parts of my workflow. Additionally, it's changed the way I think about some photo-tweaking settings, like color temperature, for the better. Here's how it works.

    Palette is a system of physical buttons, dials, and sliders that, though its Mac or Windows desktop software, tap directly into keyboard shortcuts or compatible Adobe apps. Its innovation (and cost) lies in the modular design--each module is housed in a beautiful and lightweight aluminum chassis. An OLED-equipped core power module is the only thing that plugs into your computer via USB; the rest of the modules snap together with magnetic connections. Each module has one data connecting side that needs to be adjacent to another module for the daisy-chaining to work, but the result is that the system is fairly freeform. Up to 16 modules can be powered off of one power core.

    On the desktop side, the companion app actually recognizes the physical arrangement of modules, showing your configuration on screen. From there, you can create profiles for compatible (or custom) programs, assigning functionality to each of the modules, as well as adjusting the color of the module's LED light border. For example, in my Lightroom profile, I assigned one arcade-style button to toggle a zoom, another to alternate between original and edited photos, and the sliders and dials to various Develop tools. The physical design of these modules dictates their purpose to three basic types of control: the button is suited for toggling functions, the slider for adjusting a limited range, and the dial for bi-directional adjustment of incremental values. The upshot is that Palette works best if you are already familiar with the tools in your Adobe apps and have an idea of how where your workflow can be optimized.

    The Best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Battery Case

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    We've spent more than 140 hours testing 21 different battery cases (18 for the iPhone 6 and three for the iPhone 6 Plus), and we think the best battery case for most people is Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case. It provides an above-average 117 percent of a full charge to the iPhone 6—one full charge plus another 17 percent—and at only $40, it's by far the least expensive. The result is the highest ratio of charge percent per dollar and the lowest cost per full iPhone recharge out of all the models we looked at. It's also the lightest and thinnest battery case we tested.

    Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case.

    Why you might want a battery case

    Depending on how you use your iPhone, draining its battery during an average day can be easy. If you rely on your phone to last a full day, and you don't have the time (or physical access) to plop down next to a wall outlet, a battery case—which puts a moderate-capacity rechargeable battery inside a bulky iPhone case—can be a smart choice. In the best circumstances, a battery case can double the battery life of your iPhone and then some. And unlike with stand-alone battery packs, you don't need to bring a separate cable or figure out how to carry both devices together. You just slide or snap your iPhone into the battery case to get protection and power in a single unit. If you're looking only for some protection, we can also recommend a regular case.

    Testing: Nest Cam Wireless IP Camera

    We first tested the Dropcam Wi-Fi video camera three years ago. Since then, the company released a Dropcam Pro model, was bought up by Google's Nest division, and has now rebranded itself Nest Cam. Its new eponymous flagship was just launched last month, and I've been using it for the past week and a half. It's a neat device: $200 gets you a webcam that pipes 1080p video through your Wi-Fi network to Nest's servers, which you can monitor and review on a smartphone app or its website. A subscription plan allows you to scrub through saved video and grants some other cloud-enabled features. You never store the video locally; a trade-off for ease of set-up and a seamless app experience. By and large, Nest Cam is just like the Dropcam Pro with a new camera sensor and redesigned chassis--not an essential upgrade if you've already spent $200 on the previous model.

    But for new users and those interested in home security-lite, Nest Cam is an easy way to set up video monitoring of a room in your home, office, or even the sidewalk outside your window. After using the camera for a little bit, here's what stuck out to me about the experience.

    The Mortality of Sony's Aibo Robot Dog

    The most recent episode of Robotica, a New York Times video series exploring the ways robots have affected society: "When Sony stopped manufacturing replacement parts for its Aibo pet robot, owners scrambled to save the robot-dogs that had become part of their families."

    In Brief: The Cognitive Complications of Augmented Reality

    Really interesting piece from Lee Hutchinson at Arstechnica, discussing an IEEE Spectrum analysis of the cognitive questions raised by augmented reality technologies. Refreshingly, it's not about the feasibility of AR tech (eg. specs of HoloLens or Magic Leap), but rather the types and densities of heads-up display data our brains can process and integrate with our perception of the visual world. Our brains can be tricked to process artificial visual triggers alongside the natural world, and AR research is attempting to discern what balance of information keeps distraction to a minimum.

    Norman
    In Brief: The Origins of Color TV Broadcast Standards

    I really loved this recent feature from The Atlantic, telling the story of the bitter rivalry between CBS and RCA in the development of a color TV broadcast standard. At the center of this battle were the so-called "color girls"--models hired by the two companies to assist in the color calibration of the cameras used for their respective technologies. The legacy of those women extend to well beyond the formation of the NTSC, in the intrinsic visual and racial biases built into those technologies. A thought-provoking history lesson in technology that's particularly relevant given the recent missteps in Google Photos' face-tagging feature.

    Norman 1
    Google Play App Roundup: Solid Explorer 2.0, Vainglory, and Inputting+

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but not because of what Google built in. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right apps. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.

    Solid Explorer 2.0

    It's been in closed beta for a very long time, but the new and completely redesigned Solid Explorer app has finally been released. This is a separate listing from the classic Solid Explorer, which you can continue using if you like. The new one comes with a fully material UI, dual-pane interface, and much more.

    The dual-panel layout is something that made the original Solid Explorer an excellent option. Other file managers had this too, but Solid Explorer's implementation always seemed faster and more fluid. That's still in the new version, of course, and makes it easy to move files from one location to another. If you're using your device in landscape, you can also have both panes up at the same time for even faster file management. In portrait mode you just swipe back and forth to switch between panes.

    As part of the material redesign, the UI of Solid Explorer has been vastly simplified. That's certainly nice to see as the old app had a really convoluted series of buttons and menus at the bottom. The new app makes proper use of the action bar and overflow menu to list all the actions you can take in each folder and when files are selected. And just subjectively, it's a much more attractive app now. The UI can be customized with a few different color themes and it's got all the usual material touches like a colored status bar, floating action button, and nav drawer.

    The only thing that's a little confusing about the UI is the extra set of buttons in the nav drawer. When you open that on the left, there's a settings icon and a separate overflow button with links to several of the built-in tools.

    If you need a way to manage your cloud storage accounts, Solid Explorer is ready to help there too. The new version has built-in support for all the basics like Dropbox, Drive, and so on. Simply log in and you can have your cloud storage up as a pane and easily move files back and forth. Local network storage can also be added. You'll need to install the plug-in for FTP, but the Chromecast support is no longer a plug-in, it's just part of the app. That means you can easily beam pictures and videos from your phone (or cloud) to a TV.

    This is a new listing, so users of the classic app can stick with the old one if they like. Downloading the updated Solid Explorer will still work with the unlocker app, if you paid for that. Otherwise, there's an in-app purchase to get the full version (there's a 2 week trial when you download it). The full version is only $1.99, which is a good deal. As of now, there are also a few paid plug-ins that you can buy if you want. Right now just Mega access and two icon packs.

    Flyability's Gimball, a Collision-Tolerant Drone

    We get a demo of Gimball, an RC multi-rotor that is designed to withstand collisions. The quad itself is housed in a protective sphere, moving freely inside of it using a gimbal system. The idea is that it can fly and bump around in environments too difficult to reach by humans for remote inspection operations.

    10 Inventions to Restore Lost Senses

    The human brain is the most complex biological machine we know of, and as a result its input mechanisms are a little more involved than a keyboard and mouse. Our five senses process a staggering amount of information during the course of our lives, and when one of them gets taken out it can be agonizing. Thankfully, scientific progress has been coming up with new and better ways to restore those senses, and today we’ll spotlight some truly astounding inventions that can bring them back.

    10 Real-World Transforming Vehicles

    If a concept is strong enough to survive more than one Michael Bay movie, you know it’s good. No matter how many lousy Transformers flicks we get, the idea of vehicles that can change their shapes (to giant robots or other things) is just plain cool. Well guess what, friend? It’s not just the stuff of science fiction anymore. No, we still don’t have cassette tapes that become snarling panthers, but engineers around the world have been working on cars, trucks, boats, planes and more that can alter their form. Here’s a rundown of some of the coolest out there.

    Designing an Ultra-Efficient Walking Robot

    Bipedal robots expend a lot of energy standing up and walking, but new humanoid architectures hope to be 20 to 30 times as efficient. We chat with robotics professor Aaron Ames about how his team at SRI International has designed a walking system that maximizes battery efficiency, allowing a robot to walk on a treadmill for hours while using less than 400 watts of power.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (June 2015)

    There are a ton of Android phones available for purchase, and new ones are coming out all the time. You don't want to get the wrong thing and regret it on a daily basis. What's a phone nerd to do? Well, let's try to figure that out.

    This month is still a close call between the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6, but there are a few options beyond these two flagships for the discerning buyer.

    The Galaxy S6 and LG G4

    Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 are available on all four major US carriers, so I'm breaking these two out for a direct comparison. After laying all this out, we'll figure out an alternative for each carrier, just in case neither of these is the right fit for you.

    Samsung is using a new version of its Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) and the company has reason to gloat a little. It's a stunningly beautiful screen. It gets very bright, very dim, the colors are good, and it's extremely crisp. It's really impossible to find fault with. Perhaps down the line it will develop some burn-in as AMOLEDs sometimes do, but Samsung has been working on that. It does consume a lot of power, but that's what you get with a 5-inch 1440p AMOLED.

    LG has stuck with an LCD for the G4 as its AMOLED efforts are still lacking compared to Samsung. The only unique thing about this panel is the slight top to bottom curve it has. I don't know that there's any usability advantage here, but there you go. It's 5.5-inches and 1440p in resolution. LG has bumped up the brightness and colors compared to the LCD on the G3, which is a good thing.

    Tested Meets RoboSimian, NASA JPL's Ape-Like Robot

    NASA JPL's RoboSimian stood out at the DARPA Robotics Challenge as one of the few non-humanoid robot designs. The use of four versatile limbs allows it to adapt to the test scenario in ways that would be difficult for a bipedal robot. We chat with Katie Byl of the UC Santa Barbara Robotics Lab, whose team programmed RoboSimian, to learn about the advantages of a quadruped design and how RoboSimian may be utilized in complex environments like being underground or even in space!

    DARPA Robotics Challenge: Team THOR

    THOR (Tactical Hazardous Operations Robot) was one of the humanoid robots we met at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, designed and built by students at UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania. We chat with Steve McGill of Team THOR to learn about the disaster relief scenario and how teams direct their robots in each part of the obstacle course.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Telemetry Systems

    One of the fundamental challenges of flying RC aircraft is that you are separated from the machine you are controlling. You must assess the health and status of your vehicle from a distance using only limited visual and aural cues – rarely an easy thing to do. Sometimes the first symptom of a failing system is a trail of smoke that inevitably leads to the ground.

    RC telemetry systems provide the means to accurately gauge certain parameters of your model during flight. Think of it as a remote dashboard. Do you want to know how hot your motor is running? How about an alarm that can warn you when your model reaches an altitude of 400 feet? Telemetry devices can provide those things and more.

    What Telemetry Requires

    There are several different ways to receive telemetry data. Some telemetry systems are standalone units with a transmitter/sensor package in the model and a receiver on the ground. For FPV flyers, On-Screen-Display devices take the data from onboard sensors and overlay it on the real-time video feed. The result is something like a heads-up display found in many modern full-scale aircraft. An increasingly popular form of telemetry system is the type integrated into the model's radio system. The pilot's handheld transmitter sends flight commands to the aircraft while also receiving downlinked data. The same onboard receiver that interprets commands also transmits telemetry data. In this way, both the transmitter and receiver are actually transceivers.

    Telemetry data can be viewed in the transmitter screen, but you'll want to use the tactile and aural feedback options when flying.

    The majority of radio manufacturers offer telemetry-capable systems in their lineups. The example that I've chosen to highlight in this guide comes from Futaba. As of this writing, there are three Futaba aircraft transmitters that are telemetry-capable (10J, 14SG, and 18MZ) as well as a handful of receivers. With these systems, their telemetry features are embedded in the S.Bus2 circuitry of the components. That nuance begs a brief explanation of S.Bus2.