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4 days ago

Sundar Pichai replies to 7-year-old's request to work at Google

28

We all need a feel good story every one in a while. This one will undoubtedly warm your heart.

Need a little pick-me-up? Check out this wonderfully sweet story about Google CEO, Sundar Pichai. From the BBC:

After discussing her father's work, Chloe Bridgewater decided she would like to work for Google and penned a letter beginning "dear Google boss".

The letter — which you can read in its entirety at the BBC — details little Chloe's dream to nab "a job with Google" and "do swimming in the Olympics." She also mentions that she has "only ever sent one other [letter] and that was to Father Christmas."

Here was Pichai's full reply:

"Thank you so much for your letter. I'm glad that you like computers and robots, and hope that you will continue to learn about technology.

"I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to - from working at Google to swimming at the Olympics.

"I look forward to receiving your job application when you are finished with school! :)

"All the best to you and your family."

Pichai even signed the typed-out letter with his actual signature. Read the story in its entirety at the BBC.

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4 days ago

ZTE officially teases the Gigabit Phone for MWC 2017

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The company will showcase the "forward-looking" capabilities of its first Gigabit smartphone, in addition to a few new devices.

Straight from the mouth of babes, ZTE has announced what it plans to showcase at this year's Mobile World Congress 2017, happening February 27 in Barcelona.

The official press release states the following:

The introduction of the forward-looking smartphone, the ZTE Gigabit Phone, marks an important cornerstone for the 5G mobile era. The ZTE Gigabit Phone is revolutionizing connectivity with a new standard of download speeds, 1Gbps, bringing a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience by making 360° panoramic VR video, instant cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies possible.

Moreover, visitors are also welcome to experience ZTE's flagship smartphone, the newly updated Axon 7 with both Android Nougat and Daydream by Google. ZTE is set to launch a range of new devices as part of the highly acclaimed Blade series.

Is a gigabit-capable smartphone really forward-looking? Or is this merely an attempt to establish relevancy for a product that most people aren't even aware is on the horizon? Either way, we'll likely be hearing more about the ZTE Gigabit Phone once the world's biggest smartphone show is officially underway.

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4 days ago

The problem with Google Assistant on Android Wear and Google Home

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Google Assistant still lacks any sort of chain of command when using it across multiple devices. And now your watch has it.

A big part of the Android Wear 2.0 update is the inclusion of Google Assistant. If you've never used it, Google Assistant is like a friendlier version of Google Now that can remember things and help you by doing more "stuff" than the original could. It's pretty cool, and even though it's not been around for long we've already seen it get better and smarter. And now, it's on your watch.

Assistant is on different devices with different hardware and different abilities.

That means you can tell your watch to do things like add milk to your shopping list, tell you the weather or how traffic looks for your evening commute, or even play a movie on your Chromecast. It can do all those things and will. But Google Assistant acts differently depending on what device it's running on, and there are some things your watch can't do as well as other devices can and even some things your watch can't do at all. And you'll notice that right away if you already have a Google Home.

Google Home can't show you pictures of cats if you ask it to. If you have an Android TV, it will try to show you pictures of cats on it but will eventually tell you that it just can't do that. It makes sense because Google Home has no display. Your watch can show you pictures of cats but it also has limitations, and it's not going to be able to play the latest episode of your favorite Netflix show. It's a little frustrating but expected. At least until LG or Motorola makes a version with a projector module, anyway.

The internet is made of cats and now you can have them on your wrist.

If you have both a Google Home and a new Wear 2.0 watch, things can get even more frustrating. Google Assistant doesn't yet "decide" which device is best to use when trying to answer your questions. By default, any time Google Home can hear you ask Assistant to do something, it will try to do it. Even when it can't do it, or when you want it to be done through your watch.

For example, if I'm in the bathroom combing my hair and getting ready for work I might want to know if traffic on my commute looks good. If I ask Assistant, and if Google Home hears, it will answer through the Home speaker instead of showing the traffic card on my watch. Or it will do both. Or it won't do either. And there is no setting of any type to tell it what you wanted to be done in a case like this.

Google Home trumps everything else when it comes to the Assistant chain of command.

This isn't something new with your watch and people with both a Google Home and a Pixel have seen the same issues since Assistant became a thing. Your phone will tell you that things are being answered on another device and Google Home will tell you it can do that thing when it can't do it. Google knows what's up here and they have some sort of solution in the works. But that doesn't help us in the here and now.

We don't have any real advice how to get one Assistant to do some things and the other Assistant to do other things. Nobody does, and all you can do is turn off the microphone on one or the other (or both when Google doesn't need to hear things) which isn't very great. But know that it's not just you or something you're doing wrong, and we're all waiting to see what Google does to fix it since Assistant is going to be on plenty of other things in the near future.

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4 days ago

LG Watch Style vs Apple Watch: which is the best smartwatch?

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It's not exactly a choice, but how do these watches compare?

Asking whether an Android Wear watch is better than an Apple Watch here on Android Central may seem a little silly. After all, you can't use an Apple Watch on Android so it doesn't really matter right? Also, why are we comparing the technical lesser of the two watches Google and LG released as the Android Wear 2.0 standard bearers to Apple's one flagship watch?

Here's the thing — it doesn't make sense to compare the LG Watch Sport to the Apple Watch. They aren't competing products. For starters, one is nearly twice the thickness of the other and offers its own cellular connection as a totally standalone platform. The other is an Apple Watch. They aren't comparable products by any stretch, but the LG Watch Style is positioned perfectly to compete with Apple on their own turf.

So how does the new LG Watch Style with Android Wear 2.0 compete with Apple's Series 2 Watch? Lets take a look!

Hardware

It couldn't be more clear by looking at these watches side by side that Apple and Google wanted watches that disappeared under a dress shirt and didn't get in the way until you actually wanted to interact with them. In effect, these watches are identical in height and thickness. Apple manages to shave a couple tenths of a millimeter here and there, but when wearing the watches it's impossible to feel or see the difference.

Where you will see a substantial difference is width, due in no small part to the biggest physical difference between these two watches. Apple's legacy of rounded rectangles made its way to the Apple Watch, while LG joined the ranks of many other smartwatch manufacturers with a round body. Historically, Android Wear have been noticeably larger than the Apple Watch but the LG Watch Style does a great job showing off what a round watch at Apple's scale looks like.

Both watches offer up a stainless steel version of their watches, but for LG that more durable metal is the default option. Apple's aluminum Watch variants are the less expensive base models, and are not quite as durable as their stainless counterparts. The underside of both watches are not the metal you find on top in order to support wireless charging. Apple's Watch uses glass to support the sensors for fitness monitoring, while LG's underside is a rigid plastic with no fitness sensors. Both watches include magnetic chargers that snap into place quick and easy, so there's no confusion about whether your watch is being charged.

Fitness sensors aren't the only thing the Watch Style is missing when compared to the Apple Watch. There's no NFC radio built into the Watch Style, so Android Pay from your wrist is not an option on this version. Apple's Watch also includes a second button on the casing instead of just the rotating crown button, which can be customized for rapid app access. You also won't find a speaker on the LG Watch Style, and whether that matters to you or not you can't miss the one on the side of the Apple Watch.

One huge things both watches do incredibly well is auto-brightness with no sensor shelf or "flat tire" on the face of the display. The top-down look for both of these watches is fantastic, and both watches handle brightness controls quickly and efficiently. In many cases LG's Watch Style is just a hair faster when adjusting to extreme light changes, and a big part of why is the LG Watch Style display never fully turns off. The always-on display in this and most Android Wear watches keeps a dimmed version of the watch face or a glanceable version of the app you're using without consuming a ton of power, which isn't available on the Apple Watch. Instead, Apple turns off the display to conserve power and activates the display when you lift your wrist.

There's a lot to like about both of these watches, especially when you start looking at customization. Google's leather MODE watch band is included with every LG Watch Style so you can quickly swap watch bands to accessorize as you see fit, and Apple's proprietary watch band system is practically legendary at this point. There are dozens of different bands to choose from in just about every material, all built specifically for the Apple Watch. You've got plenty of options either way you go, but you're significantly more likely to wander through a mall and see a watch band you like that works with your LG Watch Style. Unless, of course, you're wandering through an Apple Store in your mall.

Software

This may shock you, but Android Wear and Watch OS are fairly different. I know, take a minute if you need. I'll wait.

Apple designed WatchOS from the ground up to be style first. It's very pretty, it's very animated, and when you want to actually do something it can be a little clumsy. Everything starts with the watch face, and a quick swipe left or right will give you access to other faces. This means you can use a fitness-focused watch face at the gym in the morning, a more professional face during the work day, and a silly watch face in the evening when you're crashed out on the couch or out with friends.

Each watch face has been built by Apple, with personalization sections called Complications that allow you to inject data that is important to you. This can be a step counter, email notification, apps, weather, and personal contacts. Some complications are larger, and can display more information, but you don't have a lot of control over their placement because you don't have any control over the watch faces themselves.

Press the crown in, and you get a hexagonal grid of bubbles with app icons. There are no names for these apps, so you need to know what your icon looks like when it's roughly 1/6 the size of the icon on your phone. You can move your apps around so the ones you use most are closest to the center, but there's not much else going on here. Like the iPhone, you can't uninstall any of the "core" Apple apps that are included. Other watch apps can be installed from the App Store, but the bigger your hex grid gets the more tedious it is to locate an app you don't use frequently.

Apple Watch Apps are largely sidecar versions of apps on your phone, and are great for quickly interacting with existing data. Fitness apps pass data back to the core apps on the phone, but are very much installed and used primarily on the Watch. Apps on the Watch are frequently slower than their phone counterparts, which is to but can also leave you wondering why you don't just pull your phone out. The most important exception to this is Siri, which launches quickly and delivers nearly the same experience as you expect on the phone.

In typical Google fashion, Android Wear is built to be largely predictive. Also in typical Google fashion, it's really cool when it works and deeply frustrating when it doesn't. When you start playing music on your phone or casting something to a television, the player controls are immediately there for you to interact with. If you have a calendar appointment with a location, you'll get a notification with traffic aware data telling you when you need to leave in order to arrive on time.

Google's OS now starts with a watch face and includes very little else until you press the physical button, which is a significant departure from the original layout of this OS. Watch faces can be quickly switched around with a swipe left or right, and the ability to shop for watch faces right on your wrist opens up a nearly unlimited number of customization options. There are several third-party tools for building your own watch face from scratch if you are so inclined, but the included watch faces offer a fair amount of personalization through Complications.

Google and LG have done a great job building a watch that actually looks and feels like a watch that fits smaller wrists.

Complications give you the ability to grab data from apps, launch apps, access media playback controls, report weather, and all of the other fairly standard options. Not every watch face supports Complications right now, but those that do include many options for data position and amount of data presented. This is a fairly new system for Google's ecosystem, but like the ability to make watch faces it has been adopted quickly.

Pressing the crown gives you a list of apps, sorted alphabetically save for the last app you used, which sits at the top of the list. Swiping or scrolling through this list, even with many apps installed, can be done quickly. Each app icon comes with an app name, but not even app functions the same. Google has a healthy mix of sidecar apps and apps that are installed directly on the watch, meaning some apps pull data from the phone while others can exist and function without a phone connected at all.

One of the more important apps installed on the LG Watch Style is the Google Play Store. This gives any LG Watch Style owner access to Google's entire catalog of apps and watch faces for this watch even if the phone is not connected to an Android phone. This is great news for iPhone users that find themselves embedded in the Google ecosystem, since it also means apps can be installed directly to the watch by using the Play Store web interface. On an Android phone the difference is fairly minimal, save for new notifications about updating apps directly on the watch.

Which is better?

Calling something the "best" invites a lot of subjective criticism, but there are things about each of these watches that are decidedly better than its counterpart. Apple does an incredible job fitting as much hardware as they do in such a small body, but the consequence of this is a battery that can't power the display all the time. Google and LG have done a great job building a watch that actually looks and feels like a watch that fits smaller wrists, but sacrificed quite a bit in the process.

As for which software is best, it's not easy to say. Apple's OS is more visually pleasing, but frequently requires more taps to accomplish the same task on Android Wear. While Google's predictive software is very nice when it works, the failure rate is still far too high to be considered a solid feature for most. It's also worth pointing out Google's massive library of watch faces entirely dwarfs any claim to personalization Apple can claim.

Really, what this comes down to in many cases is price. The LG Watch Style at $249 has a stainless steel body and a nice leather strap in the box. A comparably assembled Apple Watch is $599, plus whatever you'd pay for a leather strap instead of the sport band included in the box. Even if you compare against the aluminum Apple Watch, there's still a $150 price difference before you add in a leather watch strap. The big question is whether Apple Watch is actually $150 better than the LG Watch Style, and unless you really want to pay for things from your wrist and get a constant look at your heart rate the answer is probably no.

Android Wear

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4 days ago

The Best PlayStation Exclusives

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Best Horror

Until Dawn

See at PlayStattion Store

Until Dawn doesn't necessarily play like most horror games. Instead of immediately waking up in the middle of a bloody disaster, or in an empty town, it takes a more cinematic route. You play as five friends returning to the same mountain lodge where two of their friends disappeared into the mountains the year previous.

During your night on the mountain you'll have to deal with someone else who has followed you up there, along with something that has been living on the mountain for a very long time. Until Dawn doesn't have you constantly shooting, but the gameplay is directly based upon the choices that you make. While it's entirely possibly to make it to Dawn with everyone in your party, you'll have to be smart, fast, and ready to survive in order to pull it off.

Bottom line: Until Dawn is a fun thriller that brings a horror movie to life on your game screen. It's got tons of potential for replay, and will keep you on your toes as you attempt to survive the night.

One more thing: You'll probably have to play through the entirety of the game at least twice before being able to get every character safely to Dawn, but it is entirely possible.

Best puzzle game

The Last Guardian

See at PlayStation Store

Puzzle games on next generation consoles have become a somewhat rare genre. The Last Guardian aims to break that cycle. The follow up to PlayStation 2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian has you playing a small boy who stumbled upon a wounded beast called Trico, while lost in crumbling ruins. The aim of the game is to get Trico up to the top of the ruins where presumably more of his feathered friends are hiding out.

You'll have to explore the environment by climbing and crawling around, as well as occasionally snagging a ride from Trico to get from area to area. You'll find crates of butterflies to feed your furry winged dragon friend, and occasionally have to hide and let Trico fight the armored up blue-eyed guardians of the ruins. The puzzles — as mind bending as they are — actually play second fiddle to the story which is told mostly through the gameplay itself. It's a visually beautiful game that will capture your attention almost immediately.

Bottom line: The Last Guardian is a gorgeous and fun puzzle game interlaced with a beautiful story sure to captivate you in the process.

One more thing: One of the flaws in The Last Guardian are the camera angles. They can be seriously terrible, and might make you want to give up on the game, but it's worth it to power through.

Best Action

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

See at PlayStation Store

The Uncharted series has long be a mainstay when it comes to PlayStation exclusive games. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End continues in that tradition. Combining exploring ancient ruins, shooting down enemies, and a story following Nathan Drake's quest to reunite with his long lost brother, this is an excellent follow up to the original trilogy.

Drake returns in excellent fashion, and he isn't alone either. You'll run into a cast of characters that are mighty familiar if you've played the original Uncharted Trilogy. If you're new to the series, it gives you enough details to keep you in the loop with what has happened thus far.

Bottom line: Uncharted 4 is an excellent game if you like the adventure genre. Finding artifacts, running through ruins around the world, and neatly tying up the story of Nathan Drake in a bow.

One more thing: This is the last game inside of the Uncharted Universe, so it's definitely worth giving a shot.

Best Story

Last of Us Remastered

See at PlayStation Store

The Last of Us is one of those break out titles that makes you want to immediately purchase a PlayStation console in order to play. While it originally debuted on PlayStation 3, the Remastered version came out specifically for PlayStation 4 and includes the Left Behind DLC. While this is at its core a combination of horror and action, the real gem of this game is this story.

The Last of Us takes place decades after a fungal infection has basically destroyed the world and sent mankind running. When a girl who might have the ability to help create a vaccine appears, Joel goes out of his way to get her to the resistance fighters. This means fighting through swarms of zombies, exploring ruined cities, dealing with cannibalistic human hunters, and plenty more. I could easily wax poetic on this game for hours, because it really is just that good.

Bottom line: The Last of Us Remastered brings an excellent game that will draw you in and capture you almost effortlessly. The story of Joel and Ellie as they fight towards their destination is one that definitely should not be missed.

One more thing: Last of Us Remastered includes a Game+ mode which allows you to replay the game with all of the upgrades you have crafted during your first play through.

Conclusion

There are plenty of exclusive games on PlayStation, and these are just some of the best. As we move forward there are more excellent exclusives coming to the fore. As you begin to explore these games and the many others that can only be played on PlayStation there will be laughs, tears, and furious curses waiting for you. Is there a PlayStation exclusive that should have made our list? Are any of your favorites here? Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know about it!

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4 days ago

Hail to the Chief with these Presidential wallpapers

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Presidents Day is about more than selling mattresses.

Though it may be called different things around the country, Presidents Day is a celebration of our nation's founder George Washington and the Presidents that have followed in his footsteps. It is a day to brush up on our history, a day to celebrate our unique American experience... and yeah, it's another excuse for car dealerships and mattress stores to push some product the American capitalist way. In the spirit of showing what it means to be "presidential", here's some stylish and patriotic wallpapers for your devices.

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4 days ago

Rogers is now selling the 'Really Blue' Google Pixel

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The Google Pixel returns to Canada.

It took a few months, but the most striking colo(u)r of the Google Pixel is now available in Canada.

Available for pre-order at Rogers, the country's largest carrier, the 'Really Blue' Google Pixel costs the same as its black and white counterparts — $199 on a 2-year Premium+ Share Everything plan and $899 outright — but Google is throwing in a $100 Google Store gift card for good measure. And, for better measure, it's offering the Daydream VR headset for just $29 with each signup.

The 'Really Blue' model has a white front, which may not be ideal for that Daydream VR headset, but it's the back and sides that are truly truly interesting. Why Google hasn't been able, or willing, to sell that particular model through its own e-commerce store in Canada is unclear, but since carrier exclusives are pretty rare these days, one can imagine that Rogers likely like this plan in its back pocket for some time.

See at Rogers

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4 days ago

Amazon Echo's biggest feature was just quietly added to Google Assistant

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Assistant got a silent update with massive implications.

If you take a look at your Google Home app, down at the bottom of the "More settings" tab, you'll see an option that wasn't there after the last big update. Your Home app didn't update while you were asleep, Google silently added the tab in preparation for something much bigger. In fact, it's probably going to be the biggest single jab at Amazon's Echo platform yet.

The new tab is "Payments", and if you go through the brief set up process that follows tapping this new option you'll see Google is preparing for something big.

it's probably going to be the biggest single jab at Amazon's Echo yet.

While Amazon has worked very hard to ensure it is nearly impossible to reach feature parity with the Alexa service overnight, there's one huge thing Amazon will always have that no other company can easily compete with: commerce. Shopping through Amazon from your Echo is a unique experience, because so many people already have developed habits and preferred brands to order through Amazon. It's an unparalleled convenience to say "Alexa, order more paper towels" and have the speaker respond with a confirmation from your last order followed by a confirmation that your shipment will arrive the next day. Amazon has even gone so far as to offer special deals and contests you can only participate in by shopping through Alexa, making it very easy for some to build that habit.

Google's new Payments tab is a big first step at competing with the Amazon shopping experience because it ties directly into Google Express, a frequently overlooked online shopping experience that unifies products from dozens of different companies. Express makes it easy to order groceries, furniture, electronics, and a ton of other things at frequently discounted prices through a single service. If Google can turn this service into something convenient enough to use with just your voice, Assistant gains a huge competing point that is so frequently offered as a reason to buy Amazon's connected tech instead.

It's not clear how long it will take Google to fully roll out Express and make it something easy enough to use, but the intent here is clear. Google Home will absolutely try to offer a comparable shopping experience soon, and for many on the fence between Echo and Home this could be a very big deal.

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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4 days ago

Chromebook Diaries: Learning to work my way around Chrome OS

43

'It's based off of Android,' I told myself. 'How much of a learning curve could there be?"

One of the biggest hurdles for me in giving Chrome OS a try was the realization that I have to adjust the way I work around the interface. I thought that maybe because Chrome OS was somewhat, tangentially related to Android — or, at least, because it came from Google — that I'd quickly catch on to its mechanisms. Well, based on my current experience, I can tell you that isn't the case.

I'm also facing a bit of a learning curve with the hardware of the Chromebook Flip, since I've spent most of my laptop life armed with something from the Apple Store. Despite some of the familiarity of the menu screens and services that hook directly into Chrome OS, it's a new beast I've yet to tame.

More: Chromebook Diaries Part 1: How I learned to live with Chrome OS

A new way of life

I know, I couldn't be more dramatic. But Chrome OS isn't Mac or Windows, which I've used thoroughly and through so many iterations. I'm familiar with their nuances. I can recall their commands by heart, or diagnose them if something goes awry. And even though this is a column about trying new things, the truth is that I fear change, especially when related to my tech life.

The Flip's slightly sluggish trackpad is noticeably slower compared to Apple's MacBook Pro.

My first order of business was to set up my Chromebook so that I could easily file a story here without being slowed down by the Flip's slightly sluggish trackpad, which is sort of disappointing considering how much I spent for the laptop. Even with the sensitivity setting set to the highest point, the actual tracking is choppy, especially compared to the smooth fluidity of the trackpad on the MacBook Pro. Say what you will about Apple, but the trackpad is what keeps me buying Cupertino's pricey hardware. Thankfully, there's a touchscreen display as backup when using the trackpad is absolutely maddening, but my work flow is primarily centered around using the mouse. I can't even use my Logitech MX Anywhere mouse because the Chromebook doesn't have USB. (To that end, anyone have a suggestion for an affordable Bluetooth mouse?)

The trick to Chrome OS (I think) is to equip yourself with the right apps from the get-go, so I went on an app hunt. I found a viable text editor called Text that I could use to open text files from my Dropbox, and I downloaded Microsoft Word for everything else. (I use Grammarly on the Chrome browser to help me along with grammar and spelling errors once I'm in the CMS. Writing is a multistep process!) Then, I grabbed Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom from the Play Store to help with images.

The Chromebook Flip's soft, almost velvet-y keyboard is a nice writing companion.

The writing part of my job — that's easy to do on a Chromebook. You have Google Docs, a variety of text editors, and Microsoft Word readily available. The Chromebook Flip's soft, almost velvet-y keyboard is also a nice writing companion, and I can honestly say this is the most comfortable hardware I've ever typed on. The hard part is editing photos.

I don't have any USB Type-C compatible USB plug-ins (ike these from Anker) readily available, so I grabbed an SD card adapter I had laying around with a 64GB microSD card on the inside. I used that to snap pictures with my DSLR, and then popped out the microSD card and placed it into the Chromebook's built-in card reader. The files were easily viewable with Chrome OS's built-in file explorer, but it was there that I stumbled a bit.

Chrome OS file explorer.

I wanted to edit the photos — you know, make them look good. My usual process on a Windows or Mac machine would be to edit in Lightroom, and then open it up in Photoshop to crop and save for the web (I'm sure you have an easier way of editing photos, but this has been my process for almost five years and I don't plan on changing it now). But on Chrome OS, I couldn't even open the photo in Lightroom. Apparently, Lightroom does not inherently offer SD card access on Chrome OS just yet, so there's a huge limitation to downloading it from the Play Store and attempting to use it as the default editor.

Menu options for opening images in Chrome OS.

I ended up editing the photos with Adobe Photoshop Express and Snapseed — the former for basic editing and the latter for specific image tweaks. Uploading it to the CMS was fine, too; I do everything in the Chrome browser as it is, so that experience wasn't drastically different.

The point is this: There is always a bit of a learning curve with something new, even if it's mildly different than what you're used to. But the nice thing about Chrome OS is that it does hearken back to Android. The pieces that unify the Google products are all there, but like the Android experience, it's up to the user to put in the initial time to customize things and install the right apps that will help initiate a certain workflow.

Other thoughts:

  • On my quest to find a worthy text editor — I should have just asked Jerry — I learned that typing in data:text/html, <html contenteditable> will bring up a text editor inside the Chrome browser. Neat.
  • The trackpad on this particular Asus Chromebook Flip is almost ... horrendous? I know, that's a strong word, but I grow increasingly frustrated trying to use each day. Yes, yes, I have a touchscreen, but sometimes I just want to use my laptop as that — a laptop.
  • Someone asked me if I'd buy a Chromebook over a standalone Android tablet, to which I responded "absolutely not." The thing is, the Chromebook will fit a very particular role in my life, and that's to be my mobile filing machine. It's a bonus that it flips over into tablet mode, and it makes things like digital journaling and playing some Android games feel second nature. But it's still a weighty computer and you can't cuddle with a Chromebook the way you can with a tablet. I mean, you can, it's just different. You know what I mean?
  • To that end, do consider a 2-in-1 if you're considering a Chromebook. Having that tablet functionality is AWESOME and makes life with the computer much easier because of its malleability.
  • Chrome OS does have split screen! I use this feature constantly on Windows, and I'm happy to see that they're here, too. There's even a handy shortcut for pinning: it's ALT + [ or ALT + ] for each corresponding side of the screen. Split screen mode can't be used when you flip into tablet mode, however.

Chromebooks

Android Marshmallow

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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4 days ago

The Pixel's USB-C charger is a nice backup for the new MacBook Pro

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The Pixel's USB-C charger is a nice backup for the new MacBook Pro

I still mourn the loss of MagSafe, but this charger interoperability over USB-C certainly helps ease the pain.

In this massive transition to USB-C connectors across all of our devices, there are a few victories dotted along the path of annoyances and dongles. I've found some exciting USB-C adaptors in the past few months, but one thing that's fantastic over and over again is the seamless swapping of cables between my new MacBook Pro and various USB-C phones, primarily the Pixel XL.

I've charged this new MacBook Pro with various cables and power bricks far more often than the big 61W charger than came in the box. It truly is great to have the flexibility of knowing just about any charger will add power to the laptop — the only question is how fast. A standard wall charger that outputs 5V/2.4A just doesn't do enough to keep adding power while the laptop is in use, but the Pixel XL's little 18W USB-C charger actually can keep a 13-inch MacBook Pro running.

And that's why I'm actually using it regularly as a backup laptop charger.

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4 days ago

Lenovo's third-quarter profits take a nosedive over slow smartphone sales

41

Lenovo is hoping to turn its mobile business profitable by the end of the year.

Lenovo has posted its financial results for the quarter ending December 31, 2016 (third fiscal quarter). The Chinese manufacturer netted $12.2 billion in revenue, a decline of 6% from the same period a year ago. Net profit at $98 million was 67% less than the 300 million it posted this time last year, and a decrease of 37% from a quarter ago.

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4 days ago

How to track your sleep with Android Wear 2.0

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Easily track your slumber with Sleep as Android.

How can you track your sleep patterns with Android Wear 2.0 if it doesn't come with a built-in sleep tracker? And why doesn't Android Wear natively feature sleep tracking abilities the way that most fitness bands do?

Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to the second question, but I can help you with your sleep tracking conundrum—especially if the smartwatch you brought home doesn't offer its own sleep tracking app. Try Sleep as Android on for size. It's a full blown sleep tracking app for your smartphone that actively listens as you sleep to determine whether you're sleeping well or hardly at all. The app also offers Android Wear sleep tracking functionality, as well as synchronization with your Google Fit account, and though the wearable app is merely a switch to turn on your phone's sleep tracking feature, it's better than using nothing at all.

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4 days ago

Pokémon Go storage upgrades cost 50% less until Feb. 26

1

Upgrade your Pokémon Go storage for half the price.

Niantic is rolling out a huge update to Pokémon Go that introduces 80 new creatures to the game. The update is set to go live later this week, and to celebrate the release, Niantic is offering a 50% discount on storage upgrades until February 26:

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4 days ago

Xiaomi is already working on a Mi Mix successor with even thinner bezels

18

Xiaomi is looking to trim the bezels even further with the Mi Mix II.

Xiaomi's bezel-less Mi Mix was one of the most innovative products of 2016, with the phone rightfully receiving accolades from around the world. It looks like Xiaomi has already begun work on the successor to the Mi Mix, which will allegedly be dubbed the Mi Mix II. According to a recent Weibo post by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, the company is once again partnering with French designer Philippe Starck for the Mi Mix II.

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4 days ago

Huawei could be developing its own voice assistant for the Chinese market

0

Huawei is working on a voice assistant for Chinese customers.

Huawei already develops its own application processors through its HiSilicon subsidiary, and it looks like the manufacturer is now working on a voice assistant to further differentiate its products in its home market. According to Bloomberg, work on developing a voice-based assistant that will rival Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant is underway:

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