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19 hours ago

A look at the new Android 5.0 Lollipop quick-settings panel

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Lollipop quick-settings

A fast and easy way to change your most often used settings

The idea of easy shortcuts to settings you use often isn't new. HTC had them in early versions of Sense, and Samsung and LG have mastered them in the most recent versions of their Android interface. They are definitely handy, and something most of us probably appreciate and use. Whether you want to turn off Bluetooth or stop your screen from rotating to portrait — or much more — you'll be glad there's a better way to do it than digging through the device settings.

Google has included quick settings in Lollipop, and a double swipe-down gesture (or a two-finger drag) of the notification shade brings up the new panel. While much of this settings window looks familiar, it's worth a closer look.

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2 days ago

Android 5.0 Lollipop bugs got you down? Here's how you (might be able to) fix them

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Nexus 4 Lollipop

These few fixes may help you fight those Lollipop bugs

The rush to update Android phones and tablets to Lollipop has just begun. The obvious players — Google's Nexus devices and Motorola — are getting Lollipop updates to all eligible devices now, and we've already seen LG and Samsung dip their toes into the update waters.

This is a good thing. (Most of the time.) Android and the people who use it in their smart devices have a reputation for poor update practices and procedures to overcome, and pushing new software in a timely manner is what it will take to do that. We'll leave discussion about why we expect or need an OS update on our small computers for another time.

Of course, with any and all system updates come bugs. Some are universal and affect everyone. Some are device-specific, and some seem to be bad luck — the kind of bad luck that comes with every major system software update.

Luckily, there are some things you can try to alleviate some issues should you be having them. None of these are fool-proof, and they may or may not work for you, but they need to be discussed because they have worked for others.

Let's do that.

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2 days ago

Google Stars: bookmarking gone material

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Bookmarks are something that we somewhat take for granted. We click, click, click away on them like there's not tomorrow. I think I used 20 bookmarks today, and that's not counting personal browsing. They're not exactly classy, but they're there for us when we need them. Heck, they even follow us from device to device with browsers like Chrome.

Well, Google's looking to finally breathe a little more life and color into boring old bookmarks with Stars bookmarking manager. It's by no means a finished product, but it's certainly a step forward.

Let's take a look.

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3 days ago

Android Wear's 5.0 update changes the way notifications are handled, and it's a mixed bag

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Android Wear notifications

Things are unchanged if your phone runs KitKat, but Lollipop users will be in for some learning

Android Wear recently added a whole bunch of useful tweaks and features, building on a new base of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Though the focus of the update was on proper APIs for creating third-party watch faces and new "theater" and "sunlight" modes, the latest Android Wear update also changes the way notifications are handled on your watch when you're connected to a phone that's also running Lollipop.

The changes are likely to evoke mixed responses from people depending on how they usually use their Android Wear watch and how they feel about Lollipop's new handling of notification priority. But in either case we can all benefit from a little better of an explanation of the situation — read on.

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3 days ago

How to use the Galaxy Note Edge left handed

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Using the Galaxy Note Edge left handed

After the shock of the Galaxy Note Edge's design wore off when it was announced, the questions as to how one would use this asymmetrical device started to surface. Having such a sharply curved edge on just one side of the phone introduces some interesting usability questions, particularly for people who hold the phone in their left hand. So what has Samsung done about it? Well, a quick dive into the settings helps alleviate the issue.

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1 week ago

Checking the checksum on a Nexus factory image (and why you should)

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checking the sums

Take a few easy steps to verify that the file you downloaded is the file you wanted

Having a Nexus means you're provided with factory restore images should you want to revert anything you might have done to the system software. It's a failsafe, and the easiest way to return everything to the way it's "supposed" to be. More than a few people with Nexus phones use them — both for their intended purpose and as a way to get an update without waiting.

What we need to remember is that means one more thing that can (and eventually will) go wrong. You're downloading a large and intricate set of bits and bytes. You should take a few minutes and verify the bits and bytes you downloaded are an exact copy of the bits and bytes that were uploaded.

The easiest way to do this is to verify the file checksum.

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1 week ago

How to change the default launcher in Android Lollipop

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Take control of your home screens

One of the coolest things about Android is the way we, as users, can take control of core parts of the operating system and change them up. We've seen it with keyboards, messaging apps, and of course, the launcher itself.

There are some really great third-party launchers for Android. Apps like Nova Launcher or Action Launcher are extremely popular, and proof that those of us using Android relish having a choice to do things a different way. These apps have hundreds of thousands of downloads for a reason. Having said that, it's important to know just how to manage your launcher(s) on your phone or tablet. Have a look at setting defaults (and removing any defaults) in Android Lollipop.

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1 week ago

Multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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Galaxy Note 4 multitasking

Samsung offers a wealth of multitasking features on the Note 4 — but there's a learning curve involved

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4, like many modern Android phones, has an enormous high-res display. Arguably, though, it's the Note's unique multitasking setup that helps you get the most out of that vast visual realestate. Features like windowed mode and multiwindow bring desktop-like capabilities to Samsung's latest oversized phone. However it's not always obvious where these features live, and there are a few different ways to interact with the Note 4's unique multitasking setup.

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1 week ago

Does turning off Wifi save battery? Not really

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It seems fairly straightforward. You're not using your Wifi, you should just turn it off to save battery. However, this question isn't as straightforward as it might've been in years past, and while part of that has to do with software advancements, it still has a lot do with the the hardware of your phone and more importantly the trade-off between which radios you keep running.

Most of the time, you should leave your Wifi on. Here's why.

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1 week ago

Managing emergency alerts in Android Lollipop

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Control how you get the information you need in an emergency situation

Nobody likes to imagine an emergency that they are involved in, but I'll wager that most of us have had an Amber alert or weather alert come through on our Android, jarring us with that sound you can't ignore. Smartphones are an excellent way for the passing along of information about these emergency situations, because so many people have one in their pocket.

It's also important for us to have a look and manage just how we get the information we might need — before we might need it. Here's how that is done on Android Lollipop.

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2 weeks ago

How to best use the Galaxy Note 4 for selfies

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Galaxy Note 4

A few quick setting tweaks can have you take the best front-facing pictures possible

Selfies are a thing, and if you don't vehemently object to the practice you'll be glad to know that your Note 4 has several tools for taking great front-facing camera shots. The cameras on the front of phones are almost always second class citizens compared to the rear shooters, but the Note 4's 3.7MP camera with a super wide angle lens is actually quite good.

The software features that support the good sensor and lens also help things along, but there are quite a few to get a handle on if you want to take the best shots with your front-facing camera. We're going to walk you through some of the features you should be aware of on the Note 4's camera, and how to make the most of them for the best front-facing pictures.

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2 weeks ago

Android Lollipop has a quick shortcut to see your data usage

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Nobody likes those overages

Data caps seem to have become the norm in the cellular industry. Sure, you can find a carrier who lets you eat as much data as you want, but most carriers and plans have a limit of some sort. We don't like it anymore than you do, but we'll leave that for another discussion. This time around, let's take a peek at a new quick shortcut to see just how much data you've used that comes with Android Lollipop.

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2 weeks ago

Take control of your display settings in Android Lollipop

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It's all about that big screen

The display is the most important user-facing part of any smartphone, Android or otherwise. Every time we send a message, compose an email, or play a game, we use the display for all it's worth. The folks who make our phones and tablets know this, and most Androids come with a pretty good screen — even the entry-level stuff.

Equally important is knowing the settings for that big beautiful screen. There's nothing difficult here, and most of the settings are pretty self-explanatory. Have a look at the video where we go through each and every item if the Android Lollipop settings.

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3 weeks ago

What does 'Connected, running sync loop' mean on Android Wear?

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Connected, running sync loop

In short, the 'running sync loop' part is nothing to worry about

If you're using an Android Wear smartwatch, you may have noticed a slightly different connection message appearing in your notification tray of late. In short, instead of the standard "Connected" dialog, you'll get one saying "Connected, running sync loop." For most of the AC staff, the change seems to have come about with the update to the latest version of Google Play Services (version 6.5) in the past week.

Elsewhere, users of Android Wear devices like the LG G Watch, G Watch R and Moto 360 appear to be split — some are seeing "Connected," while others get "Connected, running sync loop." So what's going on? Read on for a full explanation.

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3 weeks ago

How to add a U2F Security Key to your Google Account

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Pretty blue key to a pretty sweet account

Security class in session

Your Google Account is important. "One login, all of Google" also means one login will not only get you into all of your services and data, it potentially could let someone else in, too. And that's why, as we've told you over and over again, you need to use two-step authentication. That way, even if your password is cracked or — god forbid — stolen, any would-be trespassers have to obtain this secondary piece of verification in order to do anything. For most of us, that second step is provided by Google Authenticator, but Google has given us another method: U2F Security Keys.

Ready to unlock your key to the kingdom?

Let's rap.

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