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3 months ago

Ooniprobe is a silly name for a new way to combat censorship and surveillance

5

How much do you know about your Wi-Fi network?

There's no arguing the convenience of a well-placed wireless network when you're not at home, and many businesses around the world are discovering the benefits of offering a free connection to their consumers for this very reason. While some of us may do the work to ensure our home networks deliver a specific experience, when you're out and about those networks are usually maintained at a corporate or local government level. That means you don't make the rules, and not every problem can be solved by switching on a VPN.

The Tor Project has a new tool to help you be better educated when it comes to the networks you use with your phone, and it has one of the sillier names you'll see today.

Ooniprobe is designed to test the network you are currently on and give you as much information as possible. This starts with basic network performance information, but also includes detection tools for censorship and surveillance methods that may exist on the network. If this network doesn't allow you to reach a certain kind of website, or separately tracks your activity while on the network, Ooniprobe reveals this information to you and offers strategies for circumvention.

This app also publishes all of the data you collect on the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) Explorer site, which allows third parties to independently verify and analyze it. As expected from The Tor Project, this app is not only free but open source. Enjoy!

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3 months ago

Pokemon Go Valentine's Day event: Everything you need to know

6

Valentine's Day is sweeter than ever with extended lures, extra candy, and more frequent catches!

Pokemon Go's next event has just gone live, and this one is aiming to steal your heart. A special Valentine's Day event runs from 11 a.m. PST February 8th thru 11 a.m. PST February 15th. There is going to be plenty going on for the next week, from extra candies to help evolve your Pokemon to lures that'll last for hours. Don't worry, though, we have all the details for you here.

Candies, candies everywhere

As you're probably well aware, in order to evolve your Pokemon you need to collect enough candy. That's where the first perk in this event shows up. Each time you catch, hatch, or evolve a Pokemon you'll receive twice the normal amount of candy. That isn't all either. Your buddy Pokemon will also find candy to help them evolve twice as fast!

Extended lures

Lures are also receiving a special perk. Instead of their usual 30-minute duration, each lure that you — or anyone else — set up will last for a full 6 hours. Yes, you read that right: 6 full hours for each lure. That's a lot of time to catch yourself some new Pokemon, and of course, you'll also get extra candy from those catches.

More frequent catches

At times it can be quite frustrating to try and find new Pokemon or to catch a specific Pokemon. If you've been hoping to come across some adorable pink Pokemon, but you've been having issues, then you are most definitely in luck. Chansey, Clefable, and a number of other pink Pokemon will be cropping up much more frequently. Additionally, Cleffa, Igglypuff, and Smoochum will be much more likely to hatch out of your eggs.

Pokémon Go

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3 months ago

Here's how you can become an ethical hacker

As the cyber world grows, so does the requirement for security personnel. One of the best ways to test security is to breach it — it's often hard to find a hole until something passes through it. The people who do this type of work are known as ethical hackers, and they are in high demand. Companies would rather have someone on their side breaching their security, rather than someone unknown or hostile. Maybe you've always fancied yourself a tech guru, or maybe you're just starting out. Either way, you're probably wondering how to get started down the path of cyber security.

Save big on this new skill Learn More

Right now, Android Central Offers has a fantastic deal on lifetime access to nearly 90 courses and 16 hours of information to get you ready. This package ultimately delivers training you'll need to fast track your career. The best part? It's going to set you back only $49 rather than the regular $700. No, that's not a typo; that's a 92% discount.

Being at the cutting edge of progress is never a bad idea, especially when it comes to your career. As job availability decreases and automation ramps up, individuals with specialized careers will be patting themselves on the back. One thing that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon is the need for tech security, so why not get started on this course today? Some of the highlights include:

  • Access 89 lectures & 16 hours of content 24/7
  • Understand how to bypass different security layers after getting proper approval
  • Learn how to compromise computers, crack passwords, crash systems & compromise applications
  • Run a buffer overflow from scratch
  • Stride towards a career in this fast-growing IT profession

Become an ethical hacker now! Learn More

Sick of your dead-end job? Want to make a ton of money and help a lot of people stay safe? Get in at the ground level and make the tech industry work for you, not against you. This is a lot of education for a very low price — check it out today before the offer ends.

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3 months ago

What I learned from playing Pokémon Go for 6 months

23

Catching Pokemon in the real world brought childhood dreams to life.

I am what you might call a member of the Pokémon generation. I played Pokémon Red on Gameboy Color, I collected the cards, and I definitely watched the television shows and spent what little money I had on checking out the movies. So when plans for Pokémon Go were released by Niantic, I was all in to play. I spent hours hunting for Pokémon, walking miles along the way, and exploring my neighborhood in a way I never had before. I also happened to learn a few things in the process.

It was awesome

I actually got started a few days late, since Pokémon Go premiered while I was camping on top of a mountain that had no internet access. As soon as I got home, I took a quick walk with my dog around the block and got way too excited. In 15 minutes I'd caught a Psyduck, an Eevee, and a handful of Pidgeys and Rattatas.

It's such a small, silly, little thing, to take a walk and see pocket monsters pop up on your phone screen. I may have actually squealed out loud the first time that my favorite Pokemon — Vulpix — popped up for me to capture. This wasn't just true for existing Pokémon fans like me. My mother was playing, her mother-in-law was playing, and everyone was having an absolutely amazing time. The sheer amount of people who were playing turned this game into an amazing experience that brought camaraderie to thousands of people worldwide. I know i wasn't the only one who felt this way either.

I found so much

One of the coolest parts for me was finding so many neat places around my neighborhood and my city. PokéStops were set up at a variety of places from schools and post offices to art installations. I live just south of Baltimore, and while it gets a bad rap for a lot of things, there are some amazing art installations in the city.

I spent a full day wandering around with my phone, a portable battery, and tons of places to explore. From beautiful murals that stole my breath away to a tiny little café tucked into a corner. While Pokémon Go definitely got me out of the house and exploring my surroundings for the first time, it did more than just that. It got me looking up from my phone to take in everything around me happily. I'd never noticed just how much of the world I was missing and more to the point, how much was tucked into my little suburban neighborhood.

It was totally worth it

While there were definitely some issues that I found with Pokémon Go — namely the relative dearth of interesting catches near to home — overall it was an absolutely amazing experience. I walked more than I have since I got hooked on Run, Zombies, and I got so many ridiculous memories from it. I met neighbors while playing at a local playground, and going to venues with multiple PokéStops meant I ran into literally dozens of other Pokémon Go players.

When the weather turned cold and the teams became more entrenched in the territories they controlled, I slowly stopped playing so much. There's every chance that when the weather warms back up I'll boot the app back up and enjoy it anew, but I doubt the massive outpouring of players will ever return. Even if the craze only lasted a few short months, I had more fun with an app than I have ever had before, and it was totally worth every moment of a dying battery or my feet hurting after a 4-mile hike.

Are you still playing?

Have you been playing Pokémon Go through the winter? Has the novelty worn off? Will you play again when things warm up? Let us know in the comments below!

Pokémon Go

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3 months ago

Action Launcher beta update brings Pixel Launcher's app shortcuts

17

Action Launcher is getting a major update in the coming weeks.

Action Launcher is one of our favorite third-party launches, and the app is slated to pick up a major update shortly. Version 3.13 — which is now available as a beta — introduces the Pixel Launcher's styling for app shortcuts, ability to pin shortcuts to the home screen, redesigned icon indicators, and much more.

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3 months ago

Privacy matters more now than ever — these apps will help

28

Privacy matters.

It may not matter to you as much as it does to others, but how we control who gets what when it comes to our data and when we communicate is still a very important discussion to have. It matters now more than ever and will matter even more as time goes by because tools and tricks to get unauthorized access to our stuff get better and better.

Here in the United States, there has been a lot of recent talk about our messages and what might happen if the right person reads the wrong thing. The NSA can intercept data you send to someone else in a text or email or instant message. They've been able to for years. Your internet service provider and cell phone carrier can do the same. While recent fears revolve around what the current administration in Washington might do, it's important to know that the last administration had the same capabilities and might have done exactly what people are worried about in 2017.

More: What is encryption?

Maybe we can't keep them from snooping, but we can make it pretty damn hard for them to read it if they do.

Secure messaging

A lot of applications promise secure messages between you and someone else. Some very popular apps, namely WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, offer encrypted and secure cross-platform messaging according to their description. But a lot of researchers and security professionals have a very different opinion and offer some pretty compelling evidence that Facebook has access at will. These folks say we shouldn't trust WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger when it comes to encrypted messaging and that's cause for concern and shouldn't be dismissed.

Security researchers have great things to say about Open Whisper Systems because they can look at every line of code to verify exactly how it works.

Google, too, offers an end-to-end encrypted messenger in Allo. While there is no evidence that Google's claims aren't to be taken at face value, many have concerns because Google's business is looking at your data. And encryption isn't enabled by default in Allo, so many users aren't aware it's there or have trouble finding how to send secure messages. For two savvy users, it's a valid option.

On the "other" team, iMessage is great. But cross-platform is a must in my opinion, and iMessage can't offer what we need unless everyone is using an iPhone.

I've been testing secure messaging apps for a while. I ignored the most controversial examples from Facebook and Google and instead focused on what else is available on Google Play. The client had to be cross-platform and offer encryption by default. Once you narrow it down this way the choices are fewer, but I found an app that offers everything I need for secure messaging.

Signal is the app I would direct anyone looking for a simple but secure solution to cross-platform messaging. It doesn't have the giant set of features that WhatsApp or even Allo does, but the interface is pleasantly minimal and the app is easy to use. The setup is easy enough for anyone to walk through and it only takes a few minutes to get everything up and running so you can send end-to-end encrypted messages to anyone who has the Signal app.

The best cross-platform encrypted messenger app is Signal.

After testing, I think the Signal app and technology is secure, and so do security researchers at Oxford, QUT, and McMaster who gave glowing praise during a recent security audit of the app.

Download: Signal (free)

Secure email

Forget Gmail, iCloud or Live email accounts. These services are convenient, easy to setup and use and great for almost any email need. Except for real encrypted mail. Messages may be secured between you and the provider as long as you choose the right settings and send mail the right way, but once it leaves their hands, anything goes. These companies make no claims that they offer a completely private email solution, so we should use them for everyday needs and enjoy their features, but not rely on them for anything sensitive.

The best thing anyone who isn't ready for keystore-based self-encryption can do is to find a secure third party service who guarantees end-to-end encryption when both parties are using a secured service. There are a few good ones available, but I decided to stick with ProtonMail.

ProtonMail is the best turn-key encrypted email service for most people. And a basic account is free.

ProtonMail offers a single account with 500MB of storage for free. Paid options with multiple addresses and more storage start at $5 per month and extra storage is $1 per month per gigabyte. The prices are reasonable if the free account isn't enough for you, but that's not the only reason they are my choice. The company is based in Switzerland and not subject to data access laws from any other country, and it's very unlikely that anyone will get access to your account unless you give it to them or they find a way to break in.

To top things off they have excellent mobile apps and the desktop web login is responsive and extremely easy to use.

Download: ProtonMail (free, requires account)

Advanced users might want to manage their own encryption and use a paired key system like OpenPGP. That's pretty simple on an Android device. You'll need two apps:

OpenKeychain is a full featured OpenPGP key manager that lets you create, import, share and upload an encryption key. You can also encrypt or decrypt files or text or even create a self-signed password-protected encrypted attachment. They offer a complete API and can hook into the Android intents system so that any developer of any app that could use a bit of extra security can build support right into their service. If you are familiar with GPG or PGP encryption and key management, OpenKeychain will be easy to use.

K-9 Mail has been around forever, and version 5.2 or later offer complete OpenPGP support. K-9 supports POP, IMAP, and Exchange accounts and with OpenKeychain installed you can send and receive encrypted email seamlessly. The combination of these two apps mimics the great support for OpenPGP in mail apps for the desktop.

Nothing is foolproof and any encryption can be cracked if you try hard enough for long enough. But these solutions can help you control who is reading your messages and mail and who isn't.

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3 months ago

Best Android apps for learning to code

4

Best overall

Udacity

See at Play Store

Learning to code can seem daunting, but with lessons created by industry experts at Google and beyond, you can be confident that you are learning from the best. There are hundreds of free courses that can help you learn the basics or beef up your existing skill sets.

Each lesson in broken down into pieces to make everything easier to digest. Whether you want to follow a track to learn coding and programming, or you have specific coding languages you are interested in, it's easy to jump right in. There are several different difficulties for lessons, from beginner to advanced.

Udacity is the best app for learning to code by virtue of the amount of content available, all of which is backed up by industry experts. Knowing that you are learning from the best means that you can be confident as you add coding skills to your repertoire.

Bottom line: Udacity delivers excellently curated lesson plans taught by experts in the industry. You can find the right lesson for your skill level, and explore more advanced lessons as you master the basics.

One more thing: You can download lessons if you'd prefer to complete them offline.

Why Udacity is the best

Udacity delivers excellent lessons that make learning to code easy and bite-sized.

Finding a lesson in Udacity is as easy as scrolling through the lessons for a given category. There are five main categories with plenty of lessons in each one. Once you've chosen a lesson and you open it up you get all the information that you need to properly complete it.

That information includes a summary of the course explaining what you'll be learning, what prior knowledge you need to successfully complete the course, and a syllabus with a breakdown of each lesson in the module. Additionally you'll also be able to see who developed the course, and what tracks it is useful in. For instance, Intro to Java is useful for Software Engineering, and Android programming.

It's also easy to jump into more advanced courses, provided you already know what you're doing. If you access Udacity online, you can also enroll in Nanodegrees, which do have a hefty price tag, but it contain a full syllabus that can teach you things like fully learning how to build apps for Android or VR.

Best Free

Khan Academy

See at Play Store

When it comes to learning for free, Khan Academy is definitely at the head of the pack. They have a massive library of content for you to peruse and educate yourself with, and absolutely all of it is available for free. You will need to do go searching for the lesson that you want to learn, which can be a bit frustrating when you are first getting started.

Once you have found the lesson you're looking for you can open it up. Each lesson is a little bit different, and they aren't all of the same quality. However when you're learning on a budget, Khan Academy is definitely an excellent way to get the job done. Their catalog is so extensive that the sheer number of lessons can be a bit daunting, but using filters you can find and access whatever you are looking for.

Bottom line: Khan Academy offers a gigantic catalog of lessons for teaching yourself new skills, including coding. Even better, absolutely everything that they offer is accessible for free.

One more thing: You can bookmark your favorite articles from within the app, making it easy to find them again and again.

Best for kids

Lightbot

See at Play Store

Our world is changing as a ridiculously fast pace, and helping children to be as prepared as possible for their future is a solid choice. Lightbot is a game developed for children to teach them the basics of coding by playing a game. As they play, the game introduces the fundamentals of programming like sequencing, procedures, and loops.

Getting kids interested and engaged with a topic like coding and programming can be difficult. That's why this is a game that has them use programming concepts in order to learn. It makes things much easier for them, and gives them a leg up on their future.

Bottom line: Lightbot makes learning programming fundamentals fun and easy.

One more thing: The free version of the app delivers 20 levels, and by upgrading to the full version there are 50 levels.

Best for beginners

Encode

See at Play Store

Learning to code can be a daunting task when you don't even quite know where to start. Encode makes that easy by breaking down everything into lesson modules that are small and easy to digest, starting at the absolute fundamentals. Each subsequent lesson builds off of what you have already learned, and introduces new concepts for you to master.

In each lesson module, there are multiple steps. Each of them gives you details instructions on what you are doing, and includes an interactive element. By having you read and then perform the action, you're able to better absorb the lesson. This means that it's more concrete in your head, and that you won't have to repeat lesson just to remember the basics.

Bottom line: Encode delivers great lessons on learning to code, starting with the absolute fundamentals. By having you immediately use the skill you are learning, everything cements better making it easy to quickly progress from fundamental to advanced programming.

One more thing: Encode does have a Pro mode which will allow you to unlock even more content than the free version already offers.

Conclusion

While there are plenty of apps out there that can help you learn to code from home, Udacity does the best job. They have an emphasis on learning to code, unlike many other apps that have a more varied catalog of lessons to be learned. With input from industry experts, you get access to know-how from professionals in their field.

While you do have to pay for more advanced courses, there is tons available for free and it is excellently curated. Finding the right lesson is also a breeze, thanks to the navigation setup.

Best overall

Udacity

See at Play Store

Learning to code can seem daunting, but with lessons created by industry experts at Google and beyond, you can be confident that you are learning from the best. There are hundreds of free courses that can help you learn the basics or beef up your existing skill sets.

Each lesson in broken down into pieces to make everything easier to digest. Whether you want to follow a track to learn coding and programming, or you have specific coding languages you are interested in, it's easy to jump right in. There are several different difficulties for lessons, from beginner to advanced.

Udacity is the best app for learning to code by virtue of the amount of content available, all of which is backed up by industry experts. Knowing that you are learning from the best means that you can be confident as you add coding skills to your repertoire.

Bottom line: Udacity delivers excellently curated lesson plans taught by experts in the industry. You can find the right lesson for your skill level, and explore more advanced lessons as you master the basics.

One more thing: You can download lessons if you'd prefer to complete them offline.

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3 months ago

Best Twitter Apps for Android

121
Video preview is awesome

Update 3 Feb 2017: Fenix developer is working on a new app, so it has been replaced with Flamingo.

Best Overall

Twitter

See at Play Store

There's always been something to be said for first-party apps, but not always for Twitter's. Twitter apps are diverse, and the official app in years past has been considered a bit underwhelming. The layout isn't customizable and the ads aren't removable (as they are on most third-party clients), but Twitter's app has improved greatly over the last months and now serves quite well as the daily Twitter app of millions, including 80% of our polled readers.

Twitter's app is ad-supported but free, and the better this app gets, the harder it is to sell users on paid alternatives. Twitter's app is also the first to get any new features, from live streaming video like the Presidential Debates and NFL Football.

For years, the last holdout for many users to using the official app was its blindingly white theme. Last year finally brought a dark theme to the official Twitter app and brought in thousands of users who are now using it to Tweet through their nightly insomnia.

Bottom line: The official app may lack frills and customization, but it gets features first and finally has a night theme.

One more thing: This is the only free Twitter app to make our list, and while you pay for features and customization, it's comforting that the best Twitter app is still the free one.

Why the official Twitter app is the best

Years ago, even a year ago, it was a tough sell to push the official Twitter app over the numerous third-party apps out there that were more flexible, more functional, more fashionable, but times have changed, and so has the official Twitter app.

Each time Twitter unveils a new feature, such as images not counting towards the 140 character limit or quoting tweets, it becomes a waiting game to see which Twitter apps get updated and when. When a feature rolls out, the official Twitter app usually sees it in under 48 hours.

With the introduction of a dark theme on the official Twitter app finally rolled out last summer, the official app took its final step towards becoming the daily app for a lot of users who didn't care to be blinded while tweeting in bed. Dark blue isn't AMOLED black which every other app on this offers, but it's still easy on the eyes and that's enough for users who want the official app and the latest features.

One of the features from the official app that hasn't replicated in most Twitter apps (including the rest of the apps on this list) is the ability to preview videos on mute in the timeline and in tweet views. Being able to watch a muted video without leaving the timeline helps me browse in public without too much fear of being disruptive, and for captions videos like ABC News, I can watch the whole thing in my timeline and move on.

Best for layout

Talon

Talon's layout is tops.

See at Play Store

Talon has been around for a while now, and it continues to earn its keep on this list by being a dependable, smartly laid-out Twitter app with just enough customization to let us tweak the app to our likings without letting us get lost in a sea of toggles, list styles and buttons. Talon's layout is compact without feeling tight, it offers excellent in-line media sizing and quoted tweet styles, and it offers dual-page options in landscape mode, which work excellently on larger phones and tablets.

Talon also has excellent controls for background syncing, notification control, and memory management. If you need a Twitter app that won't bump a bunch of apps out of your cache or take up too much space on a 16GB phone without a microSD card slot. You can also cut down on what Talon pulls while off Wi-Fi, if you're not lucky enough to still be holding on to an unlimited data plan.

Bottom line: Talon's customization is not too little, not too much, it's just right, and it's a layout that I miss whenever I switch to any other Twitter client.

One more thing: Talon is battery and memory-conscious, allowing you to tweak how many tweets, mentions, and messages to store in the database, as well as allowing storage-strapped users to clear Talon's database to free up room whenever needed.

Best for theming

Flamingo

Flamingo is bright and bold with its theming

See at Play Store

Flamingo is a relative newcomer in the Twitter client market, but it already has quite a following, and it's easy to see why. Flamingo is not a Twitter app you can just install and go with, it's an app that begs to be tweaked, customized, and done up to suit your style. It feels great once you have everything set up and to your liking, but until you find that sweet spot, you're going to have to muddle around with the layout and layout settings.

Once you have that layout set up, theming this app is wonderful and ridiculously detailed. Pick the Primary color, the background color, the tweet text color, the quote text color, the RT badge color, you can theme and customize quite literally everything in the app. While I wish more default themes were available, and while I wish more color choices were available, the themes here are still the most comprehensive and awesome we've seen in a Twitter app.

Bottom-line: Flamingo is new, bright, bold, and beautiful. And once you've got things dialed in, this is a twitter app that will make your feed work for you and keep it easy on the eyes.

One more thing: Widgets for twitter usually suck, especially for theming, but Flamingo does Twitter widgets right, letting you pick the opacity and colors for the widget that looks and fits best with your home screen layout.

Best for power users

Tweetings

Bring on the statistics!

See at Play Store

Tweetings is an app with a lot of bells and whistles — literal whistles — to play around with, but a few things set it apart. The first and most obvious is a stats panel that will come in with a swipe from the right side of the screen, as opposed to a swipe right on the screen, which will go to the next tab. This stats tab shows how much activity you've gotten today, how many likes your tweets have gotten, and so forth. If you're a professional or at least a power user this tab will be very useful, but for most, it's an interesting page, even if it reminds us how few likes we got today.

Tweetings takes an unusual step with verified user tweets, putting the verified badge over the avatar rather than next to the name. This can be useful for regular users as well as power users, as it's easier to spy the verified icon (or lack thereof) on an account avatar far easier than checking past a potentially long name and handle for one before RTing a fake account, as I have done about half a dozen times.

Bottom line: Tweetings is a hell of a Twitter client, but it truly comes alive for users who want to dig into statistics and trends to expand their reach and diversify their feeds. For the rest of us, it's an interesting client that will let us get as much or as little technical as we like.

One more thing: Tweetings by default has play sound on send turned on, and while it sounds and feel like you just launched a torpedo (hey, maybe we found Trump's Twitter app), you're probably going to want to turn it off before you get in trouble for tweeting during an all-hands meeting. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Conclusion

There's a lot of really great Twitter apps out there if you want to get down and dirty with customization, theming, and the nitty gritty of tweeting from the toilet, but for the large majority of users the first-party — and free — official Twitter app will be more than enough to get them by. If you want to customize your experience, the third-party apps are waiting in the wings, ad-free versions in hand.

Best overall

Twitter

Video preview FTW

See at Play Store

There's always been something to be said for first-party apps, but not always for Twitter's. Twitter apps are diverse, and the official app in years past has been considered a bit underwhelming. The layout isn't customizable and the ads aren't removable (as they are on most third-party clients), but Twitter's app has improved greatly over the last months and now serves quite well as the daily Twitter app of millions, including 80% of our polled readers.

Twitter's app is ad-supported but free, and the better this app gets, the harder it is to sell users on paid alternatives. Twitter's app is also the first to get any new features, from live streaming video like the Presidential Debates and NFL Football.

For years, the last holdout for many users to using the official app was its blindingly white theme. Last year finally brought a dark theme to the official Twitter app and brought in thousands of users who are now using it to Tweet through their nightly insomnia.

Bottom line: The official app may lack frills and customization, but it gets features first and finally has a night theme.

One more thing: This is the only free Twitter app to make our list, and while you pay for features and customization, it's comforting that the best Twitter app is still the free one.

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3 months ago

Google Now Launcher to be discontinued by Google

55

Goodbye, Google Now Launcher.

Google's first launcher, the launcher that shipped with the Nexus series and that helped define what much of the theming community views as 'stock', will be retiring soon. Google Now Launcher will be pulled from Google Play and from the Google Mobile Services package that allows manufacturers to install it out of the box on their phones. With the Pixel Launcher as the shiny new launcher in the Google stable, I suppose it was inevitable that GNL would be put out to pasture.

A discontinued launcher on a discontinued phone.

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3 months ago

Don't want to call Congress? Use this app instead! 🏛

Countable is the best free app for contacting your Congress member and staying privy to the politics happening behind the scenes.

Last week, I wrote a little ditty on the apps you can install to easily keep privy with what's going on in the world. I had mentioned the app Countable, which keeps you up to date on what's going in Congress.

This week, I'm imploring you to download it, especially considering what happened last week in the United States with regards to immigration policy. Politics and policy-making may not be your thing or whatever, but there is always legislation happening that affects you, even if it's merely tangential. All it takes to start paying attention is checking in with the app once a day. After a while of interacting with the Countable community, I guarantee you'll eventually find something to say.

Every view on an issue

Parsing what's happening above you and on behalf of you can be difficult to do when you're also juggling the events of your daily life. Countable is helpful because it'll keep you informed even when you don't have the time to delve into the particulars. I like the daily notifications what my representatives are voting on in my state, though the app is also good for researching what's what.

For instance, say you're wondering what's happening in the realm of public transportation. You can tap on the Issues category in the Countable app to bookmark it and then see what it is exactly that Congress is voting on that's related. The topic page will have a "featured" bill — typically, the one that's up next up on the voting block— but if you have some time to swipe through, you can also read up on what's coming in the pipeline. I also like to use Countable as an aid for when I have the time to go diving into archived news articles and hackneyed Wiki pages.

I know they typically caution that you don't read the comments, but skimming the Opinions section of each individual bill page is a great way to get the tl;dr version of what people are saying about the matter.

Countable has already had three years on the market, which means you can safely bet that enough time has elapsed for there to be enough active users. I know they typically caution that you don't read the comments, but skimming the Opinions section of each individual bill page is a great way to get the tl;dr version of what people are saying about the matter.

Immediate access to Congress

There are a number of policy-making apps already in the Play Store, but many of them are meant to serve as a reference tool. Countable is different in that it actually connects you to your representatives, without having to endure the awkward one-way conversation that typically happens with a voice mailbox.

All you do is select "Yea" or "Nay" on each bill, and then Countable will send an email on behalf of you. You can tack on a custom message if you choose, but it's nice that it isn't required. The only caveat of this particular feature is that you have to input your address, though that's to help confirm to the representative you're contacting that you live in their district.

After you've voiced your opinion, Countable will file that matter away in your personal profile, where you can keep track of the issue and see how it fares over time.

Yes, it's buggy

I can't sit here and pretend that the Countable app hasn't frustrated me a few times with its delayed touch response and general bugginess. Thankfully, the team at Countable is looking to completely rewrite the app for Android users. In the meantime, you can install the app to receive notifications, if the app starts to bug you, simply peruse the topics at hand online at the Countable website.

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3 months ago

Best Android reading apps for kids

3

Best overall

Hooked on Phonics

See at Play Store

When it comes to teaching children to read, one particular program has been doing a great job for two decades: Hooked on Phonics. This curriculum is now available on your phone or tablet, and it comes with its traditions in tact. These include ebooks, games, and reading lessons.

There are 24 progressive learning lessons. They start with easier concepts like learning vowels, simple compound words, and and two syllable words. Each lesson ends with a specific story that uses the words your child just learned, ensuring that they have properly absorbed the lesson in front of them.

Bottom line: Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent system right to your smartphone, giving your child all the tools to being a proficient and confident reader.

One more thing: Great for kids 3-7, but Hooked on Phonics does focus on the basics of learning to read.

Why Hooked on Phonics best

Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent all-round system for teach your child how to read.

Hooked on Phonics is stellar at what it does, in part because of how much it has to offer. From learning the sounds of the alphabet and sight reading, to being able to confidently read complicated sentences. Everything is broken down into bite-sized chunks that make it easy for them to stay involved, without getting frustrated as they learn.

While the full version of the app requires a subscription, you do get access to the first three lessons, and the first story involving the concepts in those lessons. While paying for a subscription isn't ideal for everyone, by trying it out first you can check to be sure that it works for your child before purchasing the full version.

Hooked on Phonics also takes into account the fact that your children's school has certain standard. Their program syncs up to Federal and State reading proficiencies for 1st grade. It can also be used on multiple devices, and with multiple accounts so that each of your children can enjoy it separately.

Best Free

Sight Words and Reading

See at Play Store

An integral part of learning to read confidently is being able to identify words and sounds. This definitely includes learning vowels as early as possible. Sight Words and Reading is made for pre-K and Kindergarten children who are still learning their sounds, identifying letters, and mastering simple sentences.

All of the learning in Sight Words is in a game format, making it engaging for your child for any stretch of time. The colors and illustrations are bright to help draw in and keep the attention of your tot as well. During the course of the games in the app, children are introduced to 300 common words helping to expand their vocabulary.

Bottom line: Sight Words and Reading is an awesome process to get your child excited and engaged at a variety of fun games, all while learning to read. There are a variety of games, and a great vocabulary to get them ready for the rest of their lives.

One more thing: The developers of this app provide a variety of other apps that can help your child to build on the foundation created with this app.

Best for vowel sounds

Starfall Learn to Read

See at Play Store

Learning to read is easier with a friend, and in this case it's Zac the Rat. He takes your child on a reading adventure that is built up of several different kinds of games created to keep your child motivated. These include games that require children to recognize items when given a word, helps them to learn to spell, and plenty more.

Starfall Learn to Read takes special consideration to help your child learn their vowel sounds. Since vowels can be tricky, especially for kids, they provide examples of words with short and long vowels. By focusing on these primary concepts, they are then able to easily master later concepts.

Bottom line: Starfall Learn to Read makes sure that your child masters the fundamental concepts of reading. This includes a variety of games to keep them engaged, and emphasis on learning the vowel sounds required to master the English language.

One more thing: This app was created by Starfall, a charity that believes in motivation children through exploration, positive reinforcement, and play.

Conclusion

There are plenty of amazing apps that can help your child to become a strong and confident reader. However, the best all around system is still Hooked on Phonics. It offers the largest variety of exercises to help your child master reading in English while making things fun and keeping them engaged.

While it does require a subscription to access the full system of lessons, if your child has been struggling with the basics this is a great way to help them catch up to their peers in school. Making learning fun is integral to their system and it ensures that they'll want to keep coming back to the app to keep learning.

Best overall

Hooked on Phonics

See at Store

When it comes to teaching children to read, one particular program has been doing a great job for two decades: Hooked on Phonics. This curriculum is now available on your phone or tablet, and it comes with its traditions in tact. These include ebooks, games, and reading lessons.

There are 24 progressive learning lessons. They start with easier concepts like learning vowels, simple compound words, and and two syllable words. Each lesson ends with a specific story that uses the words your child just learned, ensuring that they have properly absorbed the lesson in front of them.

Bottom line: Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent system right to your smartphone, giving your child all the tools to being a proficient and confident reader.

One more thing: Great for kids 3-7, but Hooked on Phonics does focus on the basics of learning to read.

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3 months ago

Awesome cooking apps to make your Super Bowl snacks amazing

1

Best overall

Yummly Recipe & Shopping List

See at Play Store

Yummly is easily the best cooking app out there, especially when it comes to finding something great for Super Bowl Sunday. Filled to the brim with recipes, Yummly really shines by giving you tons of options for searching for recipes, including vegetarian-only options and the ability to filter recipes based on your dietary restrictions.

After you search and find that perfect recipe it delivers all the details, from what the ingredients you'll need to step by step instructions on how to make it, to pictures of the finished product. Another huge perk of using Yummly is that it helps you organize your shopping needs based on the recipes you plan to make. From the recipe page you can save all of the ingredients to a shopping list, which is synced across all your devices provided you are signed into Yummly, and also organizes your shopping list so it's quick and easy to grab what you need when you stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Bottom line: Yummly gives you the power to find the exact type of recipe you are looking for, and helps to make sure that you never forget a single ingredient when you are at the market.

One more thing: There are dozens of recipes uploaded by other users specifically for the Super Bowl.

Why Yummly is the best

Yummly delivers a great system that lets you filter and find the perfect recipe, as well as making sure you have a shopping list with each ingredient on it.

While there are plenty of apps out there that can help you find a great snack for the Super Bowl, few do it nearly as well as Yummly does. Their selection of recipes is seriously impressive with over one million recipes, and handy options for filtering your search to meet your needs. You can filter each search by dietary preferences, nutrition, tastes, techniques, prep time and more. You can also search for recipes related to events — right now there are over 11 thousand Super Bowl recipes available for you to browse through.

When you find the recipe that you never knew you needed, you also have the ability to save it. You can save as many recipes as you'd like, and separate them into collections. This makes it easy to save recipes for later and then easily find them when you're ready to prepare them.

If you're already prepared to head out to the grocery store, then you can add the items you need for a recipe to a shopping list. Yummly automatically separates every ingredient on the list by type or aisle, so that your trip to the store is as stress free as possible.

Best for the last minute

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner

See at Play Store

Let's face it: life is busy and full of distractions, and small catastrophes can throw all of your plans out of whack. If you're panicking that the Super Bowl is only days away and you don't think you'll have time for a proper trip to the grocery store, that's the exact situation Allrecipes Dinner Spinner was designed for.

While Dinner Spinner gives you access to the massive library of recipes found at Allrecipes.com, it can also help you discover recipes using only the ingredients already in your kitchen. Usd the Dinner Spinner feature in the app to find recipes using specific ingredients, cooking time, or the type of dish you're looking for. It isn't perfect, but it is a great way to get ideas for something you can throw together in a pinch, without having to spend much time searching through recipes.

Bottom line: Allrecipes Dinner Spinner is handy for finding a brand new recipe, or just figuring out what you can do with ingredients that you already have on hand.

One more thing: When you find the recipes that you can't bear to lose, then just favorite them. There on out, they will live in your favorites folder and are easy to find in a pinch.

Best for sharing

Cookpad

See at Play Store

Social media and sharing every aspect of our lives has become ingrained behavior for many people. If you're the type who likes to share recipes already, or you're looking for recipes with a more personal touch, then Cookpad is where it's at. While Cookpad has a sizeable library of recipes with plenty of options to filter searches, it's way more than that.

Cookpad actually functions as it's own social media platform, revolving entirely around food. You can share your own recipes, see what your friends are experimenting with, and discover recipes that don't seem as manufactured as those found elsewhere. There is even a location feature that allows you to see what people in your area are cooking up for themselves. You can even search out recipes for specific occasions — and that definitely includes the Super Bowl.

There is even a chat function, which allows you to privately chat with other users or create a group. If you've decided to roll with a potluck Super Bowl, the chat is a great way to easily discuss what everyone is bringing to the game. Especially since you can swipe between searching out the recipe you're looking for and your conversation.

Bottom line: Cookpad offers a full social experience for your culinary adventures, with plenty of features, and occasion specific recipes.

One more thing: Cookpad is available in 8 different languages making it accessible for anyone who does not read English.

Best from TV

Food Network in the Kitchen

See at Play Store

There are plenty of folks out there that find new recipes or improve their skills in the kitchen by watching the Food Network on TV. If you missed part of an episode, or you're trying to find a specific recipe you saw made on a show, then their app is most definitely the place to check out.

You can filter your recipes search for recipes by celebrity chef, type, event and even cooking difficulty to find something new. If you're looking for something from a specific chef or show, you can also find recipes that way. Some of them may have video accompaniment, and there are new recipes added each month.

Bottom line: Food Network in the Kitchen delivers tons of great recipes from your favorite cooking shows. They also deliver tons of unique recipes you would have never considered, which will help you to deliver excellent food for guests at your Super Bowl party.

One more thing: If you aren't a pro, don't be worried. Each recipe comes with a difficulty level so that you can be prepared for whatever dish you are cooking up and don't bite off more than you can chew.

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3 months ago

AmpMe brings Spotify integration to its neat stereo music app

2

The app uses other devices and Bluetooth-enabled speakers to amplify music, so you can theoretically have a dance party anywhere.

Picture it: You and two of your friends jovially walking, with arms linked, towards the neighborhood bar. One of your friends starts whistling the piano intro to Cheers. You start singing, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got..." Your other friend whips out her phone, quickly queues up the song on Spotify, and starts blasting it at full volume. If only you could have this moment in stereo.

Well, now you can, as long as you and your pals all have AmpMe installed. Today, the team behind the app announced Spotify integration so that you and your friends can play the same song, at the same time, from your respective devices. The app actually uses the secondary devices to initiate the "stereo sound." It's not only a neat trick, but a great way to immerse yourself in the music without having to invest in a lofty, expensive stereo setup.

And yes — the phrase "social media party" is admittedly a bit nauseating when uttered out loud, but it is quite a bit of fun when you simply allow yourself to feel the rhythm. AmpMe also lets you create playlists, so you can keep the party going for more than one song. In addition to Spotify, it works with YouTube, Google Play Music, and locally-stored music files.

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3 months ago

Get pumped for the big game with our Super Bowl themes!

5

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALLLLLLL?????!!!!!!!

The parties are prepped. The commercials are cued. The fans have completely taken Houston — as an Austinite, you can have it, by the by. Super Bowl LI is Sunday, and that means it's time to give the teams their theming due. Only one team may walk outta Texas with a ring, but both teams and their fans can deck their phones in these simple, sporty themes on their Android phones.

So, I say again: are you ready for some football?

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3 months ago

Android users will have to wait a while longer for Outlook Mobile's add-ins

13

It's too bad that Android users weren't prioritized for an update that brings native Evernote, Giphy, and Trello integration.

Microsoft is celebrating two years of Outlook mobile with a new feature. Unfortunately, it's only for your iPhone-using friends for now, but at the very least, here's a preview of what's to come in three concise GIFs.

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