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2 weeks ago

How to set up and use Kodi on your Android device


Getting Kodi set up on Android might take some time initially, but it's worth it in the long run.

Kodi is a powerful open source media center, which is available across a multitude of operating systems, but its rise to prominence is mostly thanks to its Android version. This is due to the rise in popularity of Kodi boxes — essentially cheap Android TV boxes sold with the Kodi app pre-installed. This has garnered Kodi a lot of press and attention lately, because its open source add-on feature can be used for media piracy purposes.

But it's an unfair situation because the piracy add-ons are unofficial, unsupported, and the Kodi box industry is unwelcome, according to the Kodi developers. The base app is perfectly legal, and what you do get is one of the best experiences for organizing and streaming media onto any device — even your phone. Bring your own content like you would with Plex — or even link to your Plex server within Kodi if you've already got one set up.

It's entirely customizable, so let's walk you through the basic setup.

Kodi is optimized for Android

Previously, when you downloaded Kodi on your Android device, you would be required to go into the Appearance setting and swap over to a more touchscreen-friendly skin. With the latest update for Android, the developers have swapped over to a much more user-friendly skin by default, so you'll be able to just load it up and go.

Download Kodi from the Google Play Store

Once you've loaded Kodi up, you'll find the navigation menu on the lefthand side with categories for Movies, TV Shows, Music, Pictures, Add-ons, and more.

Importing your media files

With Kodi, you can keep all your media organized and accessible in one place — from pictures and music to videos, sorted by movies and TV shows. It's quick and easy to import your media into Kodi and simply a matter of setting a source for the media from your phone's internal storage or a microSD card if your phone supports expandable storage.

  1. Tap the type of media you wish to add. We'll use Pictures for this example.
  2. Tap Add pictures….

  3. Tap Browse.
  4. Find the folder containing the media you wish to add then tap OK.

Now when you tap the category from the main screen, you'll find your source available with all your photos, music, or videos organized. If you've ripped your favorite TV box sets onto your computer and transferred them to a microSD card, they will be organized by season within Kodi.

Diving into Add-ons

Beyond your own media, you can also install a variety of handy add-ons from the built-in add-on browser or by adding them from remote add-on repositories. For now, we'll look at what's available from right within Kodi.

When you tap the Add-ons menu from the main menu of Kodi, you may find that all your Android apps have been automatically linked and displayed within Kodi. While it's somewhat convenient to be able to jump right into another app from within Kodi, I've found it to be somewhat buggy and it's caused Kodi to crash on more than one occasion.

You want to get to the add-on menu with all the different add-on types listed along the left side of the screen. There you'll be able to tap the button to browse through the available add-ons.

You can find video add-ons for over 100 different TV channels' online streaming catalogues and media sharing websites such as YouTube and Reddit, along with many international options. To install an add-on and see what it has to offer, simply select it and tap Install.

Along with the add-ons found within the included Add-ons browser, you can go into the add-on settings and install from an online repository. Since those are often hosting add-ons that promote piracy, you're on your own if you choose to go that route.

The Chromecast workaround

Watching Kodi on a tablet or phone when you're on the go is alright, but the best part is the way you can switch over to your Chromecast-enabled TV when you get home. Kodi doesn't support Chromecast directly, but you can cast your phone's screen to the TV.

It's a pretty good workaround if you've got an older Android phone or tablet sitting around collecting dust. If it also happens to feature a microSD slot, it'll be that much easier to load it full of your favorite media. I used a secondary phone for my bedroom TV, which allowed me to cast my favorite shows to the Chromecast while keeping the full touch controls over everything right on hand.

It did take some tweaking, including going into the audio settings and adjusting the volume and audio offset, but once it was set up, it was pretty great. The updated layout that's been optimized for touchscreen controls only makes things easier to navigate

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from [adding Kodi to an NVIDIA Shield] or downloading Kodi for your PC or Mac and streaming your content that way from home. Simply put, Kodi gives you all the customization tools for Android to make it fit into TV setups around your home.


Let me know in the comments below!

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2 weeks ago

All about Android's new, safer way of logging into apps


Android can now read 2FA codes over NFC and Bluetooth.

Google added support for wireless U2F cards in a developer version of Google Authenticator back in December. There was an unofficial demo at the Github website that showed how it would work (but it didn't actually work) and the folks at Fidesmo, a company that sells U2F cards, found the APIs buried in the Google Authenticator app. We knew that something would be happening and we just needed to wait for it.

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2 weeks ago

Best Battery Cases for Google Pixel


Keep your Pixel's battery topped up with these battery cases.

The Google Pixel has been out for a while now, and you might be finding its 2,770mAh battery struggling to make it through a full day of usage without needing a charge.

Battery cases are one option to consider, if you're alright with the added bulk. Unfortunately, there isn't much diversity in style or price, as your main decision here is besides the brand name on the packaging. Popular charging case brands such as Mophie, Tylt and Incipio don't yet have an option for the Pixel, so you're left with slim options to choose from.

Regardless, let's take a look.

BEAOK Google Pixel Battery Case

This BEAOK case offers 4,000mAh of juice to provide power your Pixel through a heavy usage day, providing more than a full recharge for your phone for an added 13 hours of web browsing. Installing is rather easy — simply slide your phone into the bottom half of the case then pop on the top and you're good to go. Pressing the button on the back of the case will light up the LEDs on the front and indicate that your phone is being charged.

All the important features such as the fingerprint scanner and camera are accessible and protected while only adding less than half an inch of bulk to your phone. The only issue here is that charging times are not going to be as fast as with the quick charging adapter that comes with your phone. This case regularly sells for $100, but you can get it for $60 from Amazon.

See at Amazon

ALCLAP Portable Charger Case

This case also features a 4,000mAh lithium-ion battery to power your Pixel, with a look and feel that's essentially identical to the BEAOK case. ALCLAP offers dual charging capabilities, meaning you'll be able to plug your case in at night and wake up to a full battery on your phone and the case.

Simply press the button on the back of the case to start the charging and you'll get many hours of extra usage from your phone when you'd otherwise be stuck plugging into a wall. This case also adds about a half-inch of bulk, but will also keep your phone protected from drops, and also accommodates a screen protector for full protection. This case regularly sells for $100 but you can get it for $60 from Amazon.

See at Amazon

ICONic Pixel Battery Case

Another battery case, another nearly identical design and functionality. This case also features a 4,000mAh lithium-ion battery that will boost your pixel or charge up to 80% according to the manufacturer, which is not as much as claimed by the other cases on this list.

In terms of style, it's nearly identical to every other case on this list, with 0.42 inches of thickness, clear access provided to the fingerprint scanner, and decent protection offered to the phone itself.

This case regularly sells for $80, but you can get it for $60 from amazon.

See at Amazon

iAlegant Google Pixel Charger Case

Last but certainly not least — because it's pretty much identical to the other cases on this list — is this charging case from iAlegant. It, too, provides a 4,000mAh lithium-ion battery while also providing good protection for your phone from physical damage along with short circuit and overcharge protection. There's also pass-through syncing so you'll be able to plug the case into your computer and your phone will be connected.

This case is regularly priced at $90, but is available on Amazon for $60.

See at Amazon

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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2 weeks ago

Google Maps for Android just got a whole lot better for commuters


Google Maps makes it easier to check traffic and transit times.

Google Maps for Android is getting a visual refresh in an update rolling out now, with a new tabbed interface that makes it easier to check on nearby places, traffic conditions, and transit times nearby.

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2 weeks ago

The PlayStation VR Demos you should try

Trying out a demo before you purchase the full game is a good idea.

Want to find some awesome games for your PlayStation VR, but you don't want to shell out the cash and then regret it later? Well then you're in luck because there are demos for some of the best games available on PlayStation VR. Trying to figure out where to start can be a bit daunting though, especially if you're new to gaming. That's why we've collected the demos that are definitely worth checking out.

Read more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

Privacy matters more now than ever — these apps will help


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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2 weeks ago

Snapchat to bring Planet Earth to portrait mode every week


Good news for nature-loving Millennials!

Snap is bringing Planet Earth II, which aired at the tail end of 2016 on BBC, to Snapchat this month.

Each episode has been repurposed into 4 to 6-minute chunks and optimized for Snapchat's portrait mode-only navigation, and features the same categories from the original show, including Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, and Cities.

The shorter pieces will also have 3D audio, something that few mobile-optimized pieces of content possess these days. They'll live in the Snapchat Discover section, which was recently overhauled in version 10 of the app, released earlier this year.

Snapchat owner Snap Inc. recently filed for an Initial Public Offering, revealing that the company has 158 million daily active users, and that it feels it needs to prioritize Android development if it wants to increase its user base. It has been criticized in the past, and its S-1 documents confirm, that it has prioritized iOS development because that's where the majority of its audience live.

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2 weeks ago

How to deal with blurry images in PlayStation VR

Seeing clearly in VR is a priority that you shouldn't overlook.

You're ready to spend some time in VR. The play area is clean, your accessories are charged, and you put on your PlayStation VR headset. Instead of seeing a crisp, clean image displayed around you, everything looks blurry and ill-defined. This issue can cause nausea, along with being a less than amazing experience. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to deal with this problem.

Read more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

Grab a lifetime license to pCloud for just $59!

Many people store tons of information in the cloud. Easy access from just about anywhere is key for us these days, but it can get costly, and people have different services for different files. Wouldn't it be nice to bring them all to one place, and not have it break the bank?

Pay less for a lifetime subscription! Learn More

Meet pCloud premium cloud storage an easy way to sync up to 500GB of information in the cloud for easy access. That's right, no hunting down the files locally or being unable to access that important document when you aren't home.

With it you'll get:

  • Get 500GB of cloud storage & 500GB of download link traffic without taking up any space on your computer
  • Download & upload links fast & invite users to shared folders for easy collaboration
  • Enjoy high-level security w/ a 256-bit TLS/SSL connection
  • Boot up auto upload from your iOS or Android camera to get photos on the cloud fast
  • Sync your data across multiple devices automatically & w/ any folder
  • Access content of unlimited size w/ built-in video & player & HD video streaming
  • Backup your files from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, & OneDrive
  • Stream audio & video on all your devices w/ pCloud's built-in media players
  • Access on multiple devices, from PC & Mac, tablet, smartphone, & more

Put your files in the cloud with this lifetime subscription Learn More

Priced at just $59 for a lifetime subscription, this seems almost too good to be true. You won't need to pay more fees yearly, or worry about remembering to renew, it's good after the first purchase. With the ability to sync across multiple devices, stream audio and video and more, you'll want to check this out if you keep anything in the cloud.

Don't get forced to pay yearly fees or nearly $500 for this lifetime license by missing this deal, and instead be sure to act quick and get it for yourself now!

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2 weeks ago

Dropped phones, cracked screens and the death of awareness


The worst sound in the world.

I am like a dog, ears pricked and attention diverted, desperately trying to spot the offending sound. It's a violent combination of bombastic crash and subtle crack, a unique flavor of dread.

It's the sound of a phone dropping from hand or pocket or table or anything — gravity doesn't discern — to the cold hard ground. Occasionally, you get lucky and the phone lands on its back, and you see your last interaction — Instagram, let's be honest — staring back at you, the dog photo not nearly as cute dimmed by the judgemental harshness of the late afternoon sun. But often the screen is hidden from view, phone face down, a tense few moments where you brace yourself for the potential heartache and accompanying dread in knowing all the subsequent steps you'll have to take to replace the shattered glass, and hoping that's all it is.

Around 5% said they drop their devices six times per month.

There are no definitive numbers to work with, but a number of studies have attempted to figure out how often people drop their phones, and how often those accidents lead to permanent damage. A 2011 Plaxo study estimates that 33% of people regularly drop their phones on a regular basis — some 20% in to the toilet (which, with a bit of luck, may be less damaging) — while a 2013 study from Tech21 estimates that 90% of people drop their phones at least once a month. Around 5% said they drop their devices six times per month.

For most people, it's not a matter of if but when, and though the materials used on the outside of our beloved devices have somewhat improved over the past few years, nothing is infallible. Corning, one of the most important companies few people know about, introduced the fifth generation of its Gorilla Glass substrate in 2016, and believes that it is the strongest smartphone cover out there, "surviving 1.6-meter, shoulder-height drops onto hard, rough surfaces up to 80% of the time," according to the company's marketing materials. Corning, headquartered in the New York town of the same name, has become synonymous with the front glass of most Android phones, and while there are competitors — Dragontrail is the MediaTek to Corning's Qualcomm — Gorilla Glass has practically become the Kleenex of mobile screen covers.

Everything you need to know about Corning Gorilla Glass

But even the strongest glass is still breakable (for now), and unless we outfit the world with carpet (which could get gross pretty quickly) there isn't an alternative to trying to make our devices more durable. A worrying trend, and one that has been criticized since the debut of the all-glass Nexus 4, is outfitting both the front and back of a phone in glass. From the Galaxy S7 to the Honor 8 and many in between, the Gorilla Glass sandwich doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon — the Galaxy S8 looks to have more glass, front and back, then ever — so we're just going to have to deal with it.

The sight of a person, or groups of people, walking with phones in hand, reading the news or catching up on a Twitter feed, is all too common on busy city sidewalks.

If we assume that people are not generally getting clumsier, the rising prevalence of cracked and broken phones due to drops is likely due to the increasing number of hours people spend each day using their phones. The sight of a person, or groups of people, walking with phones in hand, reading the news or catching up on a Twitter feed, is all too common on busy city sidewalks, and the more we take the technology for granted, the less careful we are with the thing itself. Smartphones may be dropping in cost overall, but they're rising in importance in our lives, and a cracked screen is more than an inconvenience — it's a tragedy.

And yet the same Tech21 survey said that many people are willing to continue using a phone with a cracked screen because the idea of having to get it repaired or replaced — often out of pocket, since accidental damage is not covered under most manufacturer warranties — is stressful and, often, traumatic.

I hate seeing cracked screens. It's a visceral reaction, a combination of anger at the owner and sadness for the phone. But that's dumb; I should feel angry at the phone for breaking, and sad for the owner who has to go through the hassle of replacing it. I've been there; you've been there. We've all dealt with a cracked screen or at the very least damage a phone's casing.

For a few years, high-quality polycarbonate — devices like the HTC One X, Nokia Lumia 1020 and iPhone 5C — were all the rage, and while they may not have looked as nice (debatable, since the Lumia phones were perfection), they tended to be very durable. But no material — metal, glass, polycarbonate — is unbreakable and the most important factor to preventing drops is being aware of your surroundings.

Credit: Getty

In Toronto, where I live, there has been a huge increase in the number of pedestrian deaths in recent years, many of which are caused by people engrossed in their phones as they cross streets or step into intersections. Such accidents are increasingly common in big cities throughout the world, and lest this turns into a PSA against using one's phone out in public, it's clear that people are becoming more cavalier about using phones in places that a few years ago would have been considered verboten.

A dropped smartphone is not always a broken one, and avoiding the occurrence completely is likely impossible, but being aware of when and how these drops happen is the first step towards realizing that our devices, as essential (and addictive) as anything we use on a daily basis, can be made safer by being more careful.

And, if you can't, or just refuse to be, more careful, there are always rugged phones and thick-as-a-brick cases that will probably save you from yourself.

The best rugged Android phones

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2 weeks ago

Best Android apps for learning to code


Best overall


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


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


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.


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


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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2 weeks ago

Google, Apple, and Microsoft among 97 companies to legally oppose Trump's travel ban


Tech companies unite to take on Trump's immigration ban.

97 tech companies — including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Uber — have signed an amicus brief in opposition to Donald Trump's recent executive order on immigration. The legal brief highlights the role played by immigrants on America's economy, stating that the travel ban will negatively impact businesses in the country:

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2 weeks ago

How to turn off screen overlay on Samsung Galaxy S7


This is one of the more confusing error messages afflicting some Galaxy phone owners. The fix is relatively simple — but a little investigation may be required.

Here's a perplexing issue that's been affecting Samsung Galaxy S7 owners — in addition to folks on a handful of other Android devices. It goes a bit like this: You start up an app for the first time and accept the usual permission dialogs. Then you're hit by a message like this:

Screen overlay detected
To change this permission setting, you first have to turn off the screen overlay in Settings > Apps.

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2 weeks ago

Lenovo announces a cheaper version of its innovative Yoga Book


Lenovo has announced a cheaper version of its innovative, mostly excellent Yoga Book, the aptly-named Yoga A12.

Aimed at emerging markets and people not looking for the power and extra expense of the Yoga Book itself, the Yoga A12 pares back the power — it has an Intel Atom x5 chip, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage by default — to go along with the 12.2-inch HD screen, though it's unclear whether it's 720p or 1080p (I'd venture to say the former).

The Yoga Book's keystone feature, the Halo keyboard, makes a return on the Yoga A12, which the company says has been improved and thinned out since its first iteration. That the Yoga A12 runs Android out of the box is a given, but this version will not come with a Windows option unlike its more expensive counterpart. There's also no stylus input support, which leant the Yoga Book something of a productivity win with a certain demographic, but the tablet does have a 360-hinge that can be positioned in many ways.

The Yoga 12 goes on sale Wednesday, February 8 for $299 in one of two colors: Gunmetal Grey or Rose Gold.

See at Lenovo

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2 weeks ago

Your phone is part Android and part Google, and probably part Samsung


The software on every Android phone is different because it comes from several different places.

This is a question that pops up from time to time, but because the Google Pixel ships with different apps and services — namely Google Assistant — than other phones it's become a little more frequent. We saw the same thing when Google Wallet first appeared, and we'll see it again when the next phone from Google has something others don't.

People get a little confused — rightfully so — about what comes with Android and what apps and services are from Google or Samsung or any other company. In other words, why do I have this app and not this app? Not everyone keeps up to date on mobile tech, so if you're coming from an iPhone where there are four or five different models to choose from but even last year's models have the same software on them you might expect it to be the same way on Android.

Android comes in lots of flavors.

To answer that, you need to remember how Android is distributed to the people who make our phones.

Android isn't a thing that can be wrapped up and given or sold to a company to install. Companies like Samsung have access to the code itself and can build it into almost anything they want. As long as the final product meets the criteria given by Google to make sure it's compatible with applications built for its version, Samsung can have at it with the rest and add to it. That's why Android is so different when you compare phones from one company to phones from another.

Google adds software to Android

But a good bit of Android is still the same, even if the icons and colors are changed. That's because there are specific apps — both part of the source code as well as apps made by Google for their web services which are not part of Android's code but needed to get permission to use Google's Play Store — which also isn't part of the Android code. These are what we call "Google Apps." They are made so you can use Google's products and services on the phone, and they are there for two reasons.

Google adds a few bloatware apps, too.

The first is because some of them need to be installed on every single phone to make sure all the apps in Google Play will work. Even if you never open it, you need a few apps like Chrome installed on your LG V20 or whatever phone you have to make sure it can run apps from the Play Store. The other is that these are the services Google wants you to be able to use out of the box. Google gets it's way here because it's an all or nothing agreement — if you want the phone you're making to be able to use the Play Store, you have to also include these other apps. At least for now, because the EU doesn't like that (and maybe they are right).

The actual agreement about what apps need to be there and what ones don't can change from time to time but some are always part of it:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Chrome
  • Google Search
  • Google Talkback
  • Various apps needed to synchronize all these services

Every phone that has the Google Play Store preinstalled will have these core apps. The model or version doesn't matter. Some are necessary, others are there because Google just wants us to see them. And many of them aren't part of the Andriod code so won't be available for phones built without Google Play Store access.

The company who made your phone is next

The next step is the people who made your phone adding their software or the apps a wireless carrier requests installed. These are included for the same reasons Google apps are. Some of them are essential so things on the phone can work. Others are for services and apps they want you to be able to use right away. And there can be a lot of differences here.

Samsung adds a ton of features and apps to help use them.

Using Samsung as our example again, a very high-end phone like the Galaxy S7 edge or the new Galaxy S8 we expect to see soon will have exclusive features, Right now, these are Samsung's best phones and they want you to think they are worth the cost when compared to other models that are cheaper. Verizon (or AT&T or any other wireless company) does exactly the same thing and has some apps put in place to make sure you see them right away or to help you pay your bill.

Of course, none of these apps go along with Android. All of these apps belong to Samsung and Verizon (in our example) respectively. Models made for specific regions and models made for different carriers can vary a little bit. But this is how the people who made the phone and the people who sell the phone want it to be, and they are really choosy. They want you to be a happy customer and try to offer a mix of features and apps so that there is something there everyone will like,

But what about Google Assistant!

This same process applies to phones sold by Google. Every Nexus Phone and every Pixel phone have all had the core apps from Google to be compatible and to make sure you see an app like Gmail so you don't go looking for a replacement. Sometimes we see a phone sold by Google with an exclusive app from Google. Like Google Assistant.

Google Assistant is there because Google thinks that some people will find it a reason to buy their phone instead of somebody else's, and probably because it is so much easier to deploy on a phone that they can update directly and isn't going to sell tens of millions of units, Slower sales mean far fewer chances for a particular bug to affect as many people.

Google uses Assistant as a selling point for the pixel, but it's also branching out.

We've already seen Google Assistant announced as coming to Android TV and Android Wear. Companies like NVIDIA and Sony and LG will have it in their 2017 lineup. There is no word from Google about Assistant becoming available for any other phone including their own Nexus 6P. Some of us here at Android Central are pretty sure it will because Google loves data. My guess is that they will try to get it into the Play Store eventually so hundreds of millions of people have a chance to use it.

This can all be a bit confusing if you're used to iOS or even Windows or BlackBerry. It gets even more confusing when you see different phones on different versions of Android and they have different features. But it's also a reason so many people prefer an Android phone. There are so many choices that one of them will be what you're looking for.

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