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2 months ago

Get an Amazon Fire TV 4K when you prepay for two months of DirecTV Now

27

Get an Amazon Fire TV 4K when you prepay for two months of DirecTV Now

Don't pass this up.

Update: This offer has ended, but you can still take advantage of the Apple TV 4K deal for now.

DirecTV Now is offering an Amazon Fire TV 4K at no additional cost when you sign up for its service and prepay for two months of service, even if you pick the $35 a month plan. While this offering isn't quite as great as the previous one, it's still a deal worth considering. Amazon charges $70 for the Fire TV 4K, but this bundle offers you two months of service on top of that.

You will need to be a new customer to take advantage of this offer and the Fire TV 4K will be shipped to you via FedEx within 2 to 3 weeks from the time you sign up. The offer is a little hidden, as usual, so to take advantage of it you'll need to begin the account creation process. Once you input your email and create a password you'll select a channel package and any add-ons that you may want, and then it will offer you the Fire TV 4K promotion.

How to sign up for DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now does automatically bill each month, so if you only want to do the two months for this promotion be sure to cancel the renewal once you complete the checkout process. If you'd prefer an Apple TV 4K, you can get one when you prepay for three months of service.

See at DirecTV Now

3 hours ago

Anker chargers and headphones, Hot Wheels, and food dehydrators are all part of today's best deals!

Anker chargers and headphones, Hot Wheels, and food dehydrators are all part of today's best deals!

Whether you're looking for new tech gear or household items, we've got you covered.

Today you can get big discounts on Anker gear, Hot Wheels, smart sprinklers, and much more! Don't pass these up.

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

6 hours ago

Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot in 2018

6

Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot in 2018

Best Overall

Sonos Play:1

See at Amazon

The Sonos Play:1 isn't a Bluetooth speaker — it's much more than that. As part of a whole-home sound system, the Sonos Play:1 is a small and powerful musical conduit that can fill rooms with lush sound. But that's an investment.

On its own, connected via 3.5mm jack or over Bluetooth, the Sonos Play:1 connects to Alexa, allowing an Echo Dot, either in the same room or another, to send it music commands. The setup is easy thanks to work from both Amazon and Sonos — it just involves hooking the systems together using an Alexa Skill — and it works flawlessly. Plus, at $149, it's cheaper than some Bluetooth speakers and sounds much, much better.

Bottom line: If you're looking for the absolute best sound in a small form factor, connect the Sonos Play:1 to your Echo Dot.

One more thing: If you'd rather go Echo-free, the Sonos One has Alexa built right in.

Why the Sonos Play:1 is the best

Sonos makes great-sounding speakers. Always has, likely always will. The beauty of Sonos's collaboration with Amazon is that a speaker like the Play:1, which may already be part of a dedicated Sonos system, can work independently with any Echo, including the tiny Echo Dot.

That means you can hide the Dot somewhere in a room and have it always listening for commands. "Alexa, play The Beatles," takes just a second to say, but with a Sonos Play:1 in the room, the two gadgets become more than the sum of their parts. The beauty is that you aren't connecting the Sonos to the Echo via Bluetooth, so sound coming out of the Play:1 sounds just as good as if you were using the dedicated Sonos app (which you can still do if you want).

Best for simplicity

Bose SoundLink Color II

See at Amazon

While it's designed to be a Bluetooth speaker to connect your phone, the design and audio quality from the Bose SoundLink Color II speaker makes it perfect for filling most rooms with sound.

You can connect your Amazon Echo Dot to this speaker and leave it forever as a better Amazon Echo, or you can take the $130 Bose Soundlink Color II with you when leaving the house thanks to its internal battery. It's a great flexible option for just about every occasion and looks nice enough that it can sit in a room without standing out or taking up too much space.

Bottom line: This speaker will turn your Amazon Echo Dot into something better than an Amazon Echo, and does a whole lot more.

One more thing: You can pick up the Bose SoundLink II in either black or white to match your Echo Dot.

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Best for portability

VAUX speaker for Echo Dot

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Why bother with buying multiple Amazon Echo Dots when you can buy a speaker that powers your single Echo Dot so it can come with you wherever you are in the house? VAUX is one of several speaker designers clever enough to make the body of the speaker something that can actually hold the Echo Dot while in use, so it not only powers the brains of the operation but makes the whole system a single portable unit.

This $40 speaker promises six hours of portable runtime, and the dual 52mm drivers will certainly make this little Echo Dot fill a room with sound. Best of all, you don't need a different power cord to charge this combined unit. The charger you used to power the Echo Dot is also capable of charging this speaker.

Bottom line: If portability is your goal, this is a great place to start.

Best Audio Quality

B&O Play Beoplay A6

See on Amazon

The speaker on a taller Amazon Echo is fine, but in larger rooms, it frequently feels a little flat. If your goal is high audio quality so you can stream across an entire house and really rattle the windows, you either want a complete standalone stereo system or you want a Beoplay A6.

Bang & Olufsen is the champion of high-quality audio in portable form, but you pay for the privilege. These speakers are not cheap, but the audio difference couldn't be more clear when compared to other standalone speakers. While the Beoplay series does come in other, smaller formats that do a good job filling a room with sound, the $799 Beoplay A6 speakers are built for style and room-filling audio. It's a strange looking speaker for sure, but one of those experiences where you don't know you can listen to anything else after listening to this.

One more thing: These speakers are available in a bunch of different color fabric options, but tracking something down outside of the standard off-white or textured grey (sorry, Light Gray and Oxidized Brass) isn't easy.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great options for speakers to add to an Amazon Echo Dot. The Sonos Play:1 is the best of all worlds, since it can exist as a dedicated Echo Dot speaker or as part of a larger Sonos system. The Bose SoundLink Color II is simple — it's a fantastic Bluetooth speaker that has a 3.5mm input. If your goal is portability over all else, the VAUX is your speaker. And if audio quality is the most important thing to you, grab a B&O Play Beoplay A6 and have a blast.

Best Overall

Sonos Play:1

See at Amazon

The Sonos Play:1 isn't a Bluetooth speaker — it's much more than that. As part of a whole-home sound system, the Sonos Play:1 is a small and powerful musical conduit that can fill rooms with lush sound. But that's an investment.

On its own, connected via 3.5mm jack or over Bluetooth, the Sonos Play:1 connects to Alexa, allowing an Echo Dot, either in the same room or another, to send it music commands. The setup is easy thanks to work from both Amazon and Sonos — it just involves hooking the systems together using an Alexa Skill — and it works flawlessly. Plus, at $149, it's cheaper than some Bluetooth speakers and sounds much, much better.

Bottom line: If you're looking for the absolute best sound in a small form factor, connect the Sonos Play:1 to your Echo Dot.

One more thing: If you'd rather go Echo-free, the Sonos One has Alexa built right in.

Update, May 2018: The Sonos Play:1 is our new pick for the best speaker for your Echo Dot, and we've replaced the Bose SoundLink II with the cheaper, more portable Bose SoundLink Color II. Happy listening!

7 hours ago

3 Google Assistant Routines you should set up right now

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3 Google Assistant Routines you should set up right now

Make your mornings brighter, your commutes stress-free, and your evenings more relaxing with a bit of help from Google Assistant

In just a few short years, Google Assistant has gone from a cool glimpse of the future to come to a legitimate digital helper that you can use every day with your smartphone, Google Home speakers, and soon via Google Assistant-powered smart displays.

One of the coolest new ways to use Google Assistant is the Routines feature which allows you to use one command to get Assistant to complete multiple actions. This feature is not available in all language and is best supported for English (U.S.), where custom created routines are still rolling out to users in America.

But custom routines aside, these are the most convenient Assistant routines you should set up right now!

Google Assistant Routines: Everything you need to know

Enhance your morning routine

Mornings are hard, but Google Assistant can help you be more productive as you're waking up. It's pretty common for people to reach for their smartphone as soon as you wake up in the morning — whether it's to check for any emails or messages received or simply to turn your phone off silent. But that ultimately distracts you from the other routine stuff you need to do to prepare for your day.

With the "Good Morning Routine", your Assistant can handle those mundane tasks like taking your phone off silent while also give you the day's weather forecast so you can plan your outfit and an estimation on your commute to work so you know how much time you have before you need to be out the door.

Depending on the Assistant-controlled smart devices in your home, you can also control the smart lights around the house or start brewing your day's first cup of coffee.

Then you can have Google play your favorite playlist, give you a rundown of the latest news, start playing your favorite morning radio station or load up a podcast to start your day. I'd personally recommend The Daily by the New York Times, which has become the informative highlight of my mornings.

All this can be triggered by simply saying "Good Morning", "Tell me about your day", or "I'm up".

These Products and Services Work with Google Home

Create a worry-free commute experience

Once you're ready to leave the house, use your Assistant to improve your daily commute.

Using Assistant on your phone, you can use the "Commute to Work" routine to get a briefing of any upcoming events for the day from your Google Calendar, get an up-to-the-minute update about traffic conditions for your commute, and adjust your Nest smart themostat to a lower temperature to cut down on your energy bills.

Finally, you can get Assistant to launch into your favorite playlist or podcasts and more and adjust the volume just the way you like it.

There's also a "Commute to Home" routine which offers a few different features, including sending texts to your significant other letting them know you're on your way home, or even broadcast that you're on your way home to Google Home devices around your house.

As you'd expect, there's a bit of setup required to set up some of these cool features, including which playlists or podcasts you want to listen to, and the cell phone number and message you want to send to your loved one. But once you've got everything configured, all you need to say is "Let's go to work" or "Let's go home" and Google handles all the rest.

Best Universal Car Mounts for 2018

Let your Assistant shut down the house at night

Technology can be a real thorn at nighttime when your body is trying to wind down for the night but you can't rip your eyeballs away from your phone screen. Google Assistant won't fix your bad habits, but it can help you get ready for bed in other ways.

With the "Bedtime Routine", your assistant can put your phone on silent, give you a quick rundown of what's going on tomorrow, and toggle off any smart lights or plugs you have set up in your home. Then you can set your alarm for the following morning and then choose your favorite relaxing music or "Sleep sounds" (think a relaxing babbling brook or white noise) to help you fall asleep peacefully.

Once it's set up simply tell your Assistant "Bedtime" or "Good night" and then tuck yourself in. Sweet dreams!

How to get Google to softly lull you to sleep

What's your favorite Assistant routine to use?

These are our recommendations, but we want to know how you use Google Routines! Let us know in the comments.

Google Home

Verizon Best Buy Target Google Store

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8 hours ago

Quick Replies make the Fitbit Versa a much better smartwatch

8

Quick Replies make the Fitbit Versa a much better smartwatch

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Two months after the Versa was first announced, Fitbit's since rolled out a new feature for Android users called Quick Replies. Fitbit told us to expect Quick Replies, but what we weren't told is that this update was also going to overhaul the way Fitbit smartwatches (including the Versa and Ionic) handle notifications.

Notification support has been one of the Versa's weakest points since its release, so with the release of Quick Replies, is that changed for the better?

You betcha.

Starting first with Quick Replies themselves, these work just as advertised. After receiving a text, message on Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or another similar app, you'll see a new Reply button that allows you to send off one of five pre-made messages (as well as a collection of emojis).

Being able to shoot off a text without touching my phone is a convenience that never gets old.

These messages have generic responses by default, such as "Yes", "Sounds good!", and "What's up?", but you can customize these to say whatever you'd like up to a max of 60 characters.

One of the unexpected features with Quick Replies lies with how detailed you can get with these customizations. You can have your set of five messages appear across all notifications you receive, but if you want to take things a step further, you can have different Quick Replies for each app. In other words, the Quick Replies you get when you receive a Twitter notification can be different from the ones you have for responding to a text.

I'd still love to see an on-screen keyboard or microphone for speech-to-text on a future smartwatch from Fitbit, but this current implementation is an excellent first step.

How to use Quick Replies on Fitbit Versa and Ionic

The presence of Quick Replies would have been a fine enough treat on its own, but Fitbit added something else that I've been loving even more — proper syncing of notifications on your phone and watch.

Prior to this update, clearing notifications on your phone wouldn't clear them from your Versa — meaning you'd have to clear the same notifications twice to get them off both your phone and wrist. This could prove to be incredibly irritating at times, and as a welcome surprise, Fitbit decided to fix this.

After the Quick Replies update, clearing a notification on your Versa now also removes it from your phone (and vice versa).

This might sound like a small feature on paper, but in reality, it's become invaluable in my day-to-day use. My Versa's no longer a cluttered mess of notifications, and when you combine this with the ability to respond to texts without having to pick up your phone, you end up with a much smarter smartwatch.

Is the Versa a perfect gadget? Not quite. I still wish NFC was available on on models, I'd like to see even more developer support, and as mentioned above, a microphone for voice dictation would be fantastic. However, Fitbit's quickly showing that it's got what it takes to create a very competitive smartwatch platform. The progress we've seen from the company in less than a year since the Ionic was released is beyond impressive, and with Quick Replies, the Versa (and Ionic) are far better smartwatches than before.

If you still haven't checked out the Versa for yourself, now's the time.

See at Fitbit

Fitbit

Fitbit Versa vs. Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic Fitbit Versa Fitbit Charge 2 HR

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1 day ago

Charge your phone wirelessly for only $10 with RAVPower's Fast Charging Pad

2

Charge your phone wirelessly for only $10 with RAVPower's Fast Charging Pad

This wireless charger is ideal for nightstands and desks.

RAVPower's Fast Qi Wireless Charging Pad drops to just $9.99 at Amazon when you enter promo code RAVPCC14 during checkout. This deal saves you $5 off its current price.

You can also grab an updated, sleeker version of this charger for $10.99 with code RAVPC083.

With a wireless charging pad, you can eliminate those nights you go to bed forgetting to plug in your phone. Every night will be like that after all, as you'll be able to just drop your phone on this charger to ensure it has a full battery in the morning. It features protection against overcurrents, overheating, and over-voltage.

There's also an LED light which changes from blue to green to indicate whether your device is on standby or charging. No wall adapter is included with the charger however, so you may want to pick up an extra if you don't have one lying around already.

This device can fast charge Quick Charge devices up to 10W while non-Quick Charge devices power up at a standard 5W. RavPower also includes an 18-month warranty with this product. Over 1,150 customers at Amazon reviewed it resulting in an overall rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars.

See at Amazon

1 day ago

Save $100 on Garmin's Fenix 5X fitness watch with integrated GPS

12

Save $100 on Garmin's Fenix 5X fitness watch with integrated GPS

Strap up with this advanced fitness tracker at a nice discount.

Garmin makes a variety of different fitness trackers, and its Fenix watches offer some of the most advanced features that are available. The Fenix 5X Sapphire is one of the higher-end models that the company offers, and right now you can pick it up for $549.99, a $100 savings.

It has a built-in GPS which can track your runs, bicycle rides, hikes, and various other outdoor activities. It also has a 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter. There are preloaded running profiles for when you are using it on a treadmill or on a trail, and it puts key performance indicators right on your wrist.

When connected to a smartphone, you can use it to receive smart notifications and also use the free Connect IQ store to load new watch faces and more to it. The watch automatically uploads the data to Garmin's Connect online fitness community.

See at Amazon

1 day ago

Your weekend comments are open for business

37

Your weekend comments are open for business

Weekends are best spent with friends and family. Or in a comfy chair if you're Rex the Dachshund.

That's Rex. He'll be 15 in September and he is my new life coach and is going to help me learn to relax and let things go. He spends most of the day sitting here in my office on his ridiculous chair knowing that he's in charge of the important things like when is lunch and is it too hot to go outside.

I'll be spending most of the weekend here with him because the rain is getting biblical out there. It's cool, though, we need it. And it gives me time to reflect on what's important in life, which happens to be Borderlands 2 this weekend.

Was cruising through the Steam store and saw it there reminding me that I bought it a long time ago and was no longer installed — a problem that needed to be rectified. That's what happens when I need to print something and need to turn my desktop on and I have no control over it and it's not my fault.

And now I need to find my Shield portable.

While I'm goofing off playing video games with Rex, I imagine plenty of y'all will be doing something useful and productive. Hopefully, it's just as fun! Take a minute and let us know what you've got going on this weekend or just talk about anything else good.

1 day ago

Best Galaxy S9 Cases

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Best Galaxy S9 Cases

Find a sleek and stylish case to keep your S9 protected.

Whether you bought your Samsung Galaxy S9 at launch or have decided to upgrade to the S9 after reading the reviews, you're going to want to buy a case to keep it safe. here, which means it's time to ruminate over which accessories to buy!

Here are the best cases we've found for the Galaxy S9. We'll be updating this article as more awesome options become available.

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Samsung S-View Cover

We'll start out with some of Samsung's own cases, although they're not yet available for purchase.

The first one is the perennially awesome S-View case. This folio-style flip case features a clear cover for the screen that keeps it protected from scratches while also letting you see notifications and accept calls with a swipe. It can also be folded up as a hands-free stand.

Samsung hasn't listed a price, but the Note 8 S-View cover launched at $60 so we can probably expect similar pricing here.

See at Samsung

Samsung Hyperknit Cover

Google seemed to start the fabric case trend, but we're happy to see Samsung also embracing it.

Made of woven nylon, this case looks brilliant in red with a nice, soft finish. Everyone's going to want to see your brand new phone, so why not add a bit of extra flash while keeping it safe? With extra protection in the corner and clean cutouts around the camera and fingerprint sensor on the back you'll love the functional and stylish design on display here. You can get yours for just $35.

The Galaxy S9 and its Hyperknit case are a match made in heaven

See at Samsung

Samsung Alcantara Cover

First-party accessories are always on the more expensive side, so they really need to offer customers something unique. Samsung's Alcantara covers have been recent standouts, offering a combination of sound protection and a cozy finish for your Galaxy devices.

The Alcantara case won us over with the Note 8, so we're pretty happy to see it offered by Samsung for the S9. Made of Alcantara, a lightweight material that's rugged and durable while keeping a slim form factor, you'll get a stylish and grippy case that won't add much bulk to the phone. It's not yet available to buy but would be worth keeping an eye out for.

You can get this stylish case for $50 direct from Samsung or for $42 on Amazon.

Samsung's Alcantara case is the most luxurious way to protect your Galaxy S9 or S9+

See at Amazon

RhinoShield CrashGuard bumper

If you would really prefer not to put a bulky case on your phone but still want some added peace of mind for those rare times where your phone slips out of your hand, consider the CrashGuard bumper from RhinoShield.

This is a really well-designed bumper that's rugged and shock absorbing in the corners and along phone's edges — exactly where you need it most. It's quick and easy to install and lets you still fully show off the design of your phone.

You can get this minimalist case solution for just $25.

See at Amazon

OtterBox Commuter Series

Few names are as symonymous with phone cases as OtterBox. They're built a reputation as a trusted brand by designing really rugged cases and backing their products with superior customer service.

We'd recommend the Commuter series case which is a pocket-friendly case that still delivers the rugged protection you've come to expect from an OtterBox case. It's got one big cutout on the back for the camera and fingerprint sensor and includes port covers to keep dirt out. You can get yours for just $30 from Amazon.

We've highlighted the Commuter Series here, but OtterBox has over 10 different case styles available for the Galaxy S9 which you can check out on their site.

See at Amazon

Lifeproof SLAM case

When you're dropping over $700 on a brand new phone, you want to protect it from everything life might throw at it, especially if you plan on spending a ton of time outside this summer.

Lifeproof cases typically offer protection from dirt and snow, but the SLAM case focuses exclusively on drop protection. Lifeproof says this case can survive drops from up to two meters (6.5 ft) thanks to the reinforced bumpers. It's also got a rugged backplate that's clear to show off the phone's design and also compatible with wireless charging. While it's not quite as Lifeproof as you'd expect, it's also not as expensive as other Lifeproof cases at only $50. Plus, it looks pretty cool with the black and neon green, don't you think?

Looking for the classic FRE Lifeproof case? You can get the supreme Lifeproof case for a whopping $89. It's real pricy, and probably more than we could justifiably recommend to the average user, but if you want one you can buy it straight from the source.

See at Lifeproof

Speck Presidio

Speck has a full line of cases available for the Galaxy S9, but we'll focus on the Presidio case here because it's a great place to start. It's got a simple design with smart features where it counts like double protection in the corners and a slim profile that's compatible with wireless charging. It's been drop tested up to 10 feet and the matte finish is scratch resistant so it shouldn't show wear. Get this classic looking case for just $40.

This is just one of the many case styles Speck offers, so check them all out if you want something with a bit more flair.

See at Amazon

BodyGuardz Ace Fly clear case

Looking to show off your Galaxy S9 without leaving it prone to drop damage? BodyGuardz offers a clear case they say is built using the same impact gel used in padding and helmet technology for athletes.

Whether or not that marketing talk sways you, the Ace Fly clear case looks like a reliable clear case. BodyGuardz backs their products with a lifetime warranty and you have a 30-day money back guarantee so if you don't love it you can simply return it.

Available for $35, these cases are also compatible with the Pure Arc Tempered Glass screen protector, so if you've used BodyGuardz screen protectors before and trust the brand this would be a good combo to keep your Galaxy S9 fully protected right out of the box.

See at Amazon

Spigen Rugged Armor case

The Spigen Rugged Armor case is my go-to phone case. It's a sleek, one-piece case that adds good protection to your phone without much bulk. Thin enough to not impede wireless charging, this is a great minimalist case that still offers rugged protection.

More importantly, it always comes in at a great price. At just $12, it's one of the cheapest options currently available from a brand we trust.

See at Amazon

Spigen Liquid Crystal clear case

Looking for a clear case option under $20? Spigen's got you covered there, too. Just like the Rugged Armor case, the Liquid Crystal is slim and pocket-friendly. Made of flexible TPU, it's easy to slip on and will provide quality protection while still letting you show off your phone's design.

You can get the Liquid Crystal for $11.99 or add a funky print or some sparkles for just $12.99.

See at Amazon

VRS Design Clear Slim case

These clear cases from VRS Design basically offer it all. It's a clear case that shows off the body of the Galaxy S9 with a shockproof bumper available in the exact color to match your device.

Better still, these cases are thin enough to be fully compatible with wireless charging. Make sure you get the right color for your phone to complete the look.

You can get this case for just $14 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Ringke Fusion Clear Case

The best way to protect your phone from drop damage is to not drop your phone. The latest Fusion clear case from Ringke includes a handy wrist strap built into the case.

Whether or not you want to use the wrist strap is up to you, but it's a thoughtful addition to a consistently stellar case style. Available as a clear case or with a Orchid Purple or Smoky Black bumper accent, you can get this case for just $11 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Series case

The Unicorn Beetle case is one of those phone cases that people buy with every new device. It's got that classic rugged design with ridges to help with grip and it includes a built-in screen protector to keep your S9 in pristine condition.

Port plugs keep dust and pocket lint out of your charging port and headphone jack, and it also comes with an optional belt-clip holster. Rugged enough to keep your phone protected and yet thin enough to work with wireless charging, get your Unicorn Beetle Series case starting at just $15.

See at Amazon

dbrand Skins

Dbrand Skins are a consistently popular option for phone enthusiasts who want to customize the look of their phone without adding any bulk. They of course offer an awesome level of customization for creating a skin for your Galaxy S9.

You can pick between nine different texture styles for the back, the minimal bezels on the top and bottom of the display, and even around the camera sensor! You can mix and match and create your dream skin. Didn't get the phone color you wanted? Make it your own with dbrand!

See at dbrand


Update May 19, 2018: Updated pricing for these great Galaxy S9 cases. Now's a great time to buy a new case.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

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1 day ago

Here's what we're reading, watching, playing, and listening to this week

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Here's what we're reading, watching, playing, and listening to this week

How we're spending our leisure time.

Everyone has a bit of quiet downtime once in a while. Whether you're sitting quietly at home or trying to relax on a plane or just giving your busy mind and hands a break, it's important to relax.

A good way to do that is to read a book, listen to some music or watch a movie or show. See what's caught our attention for the week of May 18th.

Ara Wagoner

Deadpool 2 is out this weekend, and I'm going to need something to offset all the amazingness and violence and X-Force gratuity that it's going to overload my brain with, so thank the Disney gods that the cast recording for Frozen: the Broadway Musical released last weekend. If you're a fan of the original film, you're in good hands here because the story has been expanded and deepened, taking us further into all of the characters we loved and hated from the original.

As someone who absolutely adored the richness of Hunchback of Notre Dame's extensive use its heavenly choir, Frozen's chorus is not quite as robust, but definitely as commanding and enchanting. This is especially during the show's opening number "Vuelie/Let The Sun Shine On" and chorus-narrated climax "Colder By The Minute". The album has a lot of heart and a lot of charm in it, but the most fun track on the album is "When Everything Falls Apart", which was dropped from the show. It's catchy, it's cute, and it's the kind of classic turn-everything-around Broadway number that I live for. I understand it getting cut because it's probably a bit too light for the scene it replaces, but it makes me smile and snort-laugh like the Disney nerd I am.

Frozen: The Broadway Musical Cast Recording

Daniel Bader

This week, I discovered that Amazon had released the fourth season of the excellent crime show, Bosch, based on a number of books by Michael Connelly starring an LAPD detective of the same name.

The show isn't particularly innovative in its plotting or pacing, but the characters are all compelling, and like great serialized dramas, from Dexter (minus the last season) to The Wire, individual seasons stand on their own while weaving small plot threads throughout the series. In the case of Bosch, while he's toiling away solving crimes in his beleaguered LAPD homicide division, he's trying to solve the cold-case murder of his mother, which happened when he was a child.

There's more than enough meat on the bones to keep the show interesting from episode to episode (there are 10 50-minute shows per season, and there are four seasons), but the thing that keeps me addicted is the larger arc of tension between the police and the LA citizens that crime continues to affect in disastrous ways year after year.

Highly recommended.

Marc Lagace

On May 5, Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover dropped one hell of a music video for his latest track "This Is America" and it's blown up like crazy. It has led to some great discussions about the layers of symbolism in both the lyrics and the video while amassing over 130 million views YouTube. The song itself debut at #1 on the Billboard Charts (if people care about that sort of thing these days), and Glover also crushed his live performance of the song on SNL.

I've been a huge fan of Donald Glover for years now and I just can't get over how talented the dude is: from his stand up comedy, to playing Troy in Community, to his earlier rap efforts, I love it all!

Plus, he's starring as a young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story flick which… eh. But it's Star Wars, so I'll inevitably see it.

Joe Maring

After playing nothing but Fortnite for the past few weeks, I decided to expand my gaming horizons a bit by finally jumping into Moss. I've been a big fan of the PSVR since it was released, but few games have made me feel like I was truly transported into a completely new world.

Moss is one of those games.

I'm only a couple chapters into it so far, but I'm already hooked on everything developer Polyarc is throwing at me. The gameplay is fun, the implementation of virtual reality is one of the smartest I've ever seen, and Quill has got to be one of the cutest protagonists I've encountered in some time. The game costs just $30 on the PlayStation Store, and if own a PSVR and still haven't checked it out, you're really doing yourself a disservice.

See at PlayStation Store

Tom Westrick

This week was all about trying albums or artists I'd listened to before but disliked, but now I enjoy them. I purchased Leon Bridges' debut album, Coming Home when it came out back in 2015, but rotated it out of my main library after a month or so because I didn't really care for any of the songs. Flash forward to two weeks ago, and someone sang River — wonderfully, I might add — at one of my regular open mic bars. This prompted me to give Coming Home another try, and I'm glad I did. All of those songs are now back in my main library, and I'm in the process of learning a few of them. I also purchased his most recent album, Good Thing, which I'm becoming fond of as well.

One other album I decided to give another listen was Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. I've sung the praises (pun intended) of First Aid Kit's newer work, but I don't know why I'm just now enjoying Stay Gold. It was on sale on Amazon MP3 last week, and I figured it couldn't hurt to try it. I listened to the album pretty much on repeat during a quick trip to Texas, and now the song Cedar Lane will always be associated with me walking around downtown Austin.

On the subject of repeat performances, I watched the entirety of The IT Crowd for the ninth or tenth time. It's still funny, and since it's a British series it never takes long to get through. I am not looking forward to the American remake of this because why mess with perfection?

Andrew Martonik

I'm not a father or expecting to be one anytime soon, but I found a fantastic podcast called Paternal that, as the name suggests, talks all about fatherhood. I was turned on to the podcast because the host, Nick Firchau, used to be involved with some soccer media and worked for my home club, and he's a fantastic podcast host and producer no matter the subject.

Nick leads into each episode of Paternal with a quick story or background for a guest interview, where he tackles topics surrounding fatherhood, relationships, parenting and more. The episodes are one-off and don't have any connection between them, so it's easy to pick up a single episode at any time. Even as someone who isn't a dad, I find something insightful in every episode.

Paternal is available on Pocket Casts and a whole host of other apps.

Mike Tanasychuk

I finally kicked my own ass back into reading this year (I hate making New Year's Resolutions, but my timing coincided, so here we are), and I've just tucked into my sixth book of the year, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (his most recent solo fiction novel). He's easily my favorite writer of all time, and it's simply because he's so versatile, starting in comics with Sandman, co-writing his first novel, and then delivering classics like American Gods and Stardust.

Like all of Gaiman's books, The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts mysteriously, with the main character describing his childhood memories of a suicide, a secretive (and I'm thinking magical) family, and a simple duck pond that seems to become more ominous by the page. I'm not too far into it yet, but it's the first of Gaiman's novels I've read that's from the first-person point of view, which adds a freshness to his writing that it didn't really need to (since he's always brilliant), and in true Gaiman fashion, it's building toward a rich story that I know will leave me mulling it over well after I've finished it.

See at Amazon

Your turn

What are YOU reading, watching, or listening to this week? Let us know in the comments!

Update, May 18, 2018: This is a weekly series where we tell you what we're into, so check back every weekend!

1 day ago

Android Things is the smart home's saving grace and it can't come soon enough

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Android Things is the smart home's saving grace and it can't come soon enough

Android Things could be what it takes to make all these smart things be simple things, too.

In an article gushing over my Logitech Harmony remote I mentioned that I had a horrible mish-mash of smart "stuff" in my house and tying it all together was a pain. That prompted a conversation where someone reached out to me with a really great question that I had a tough time answering: Where should I start if I want to build my own smart home?

What makes it tough is that there is just so much of everything out there that claims to be smart or work with smart things. The manufacturers, of course, tell us that their products are the best at what they're supposed to do. When shopping around for things like smart hubs or controllers it's common to see two competing products beside each other and both of them claiming they are the best. And best is a tough thing to define because something could be the best in one way and not another.

The conversation was both memorable and enlightening because in the end, you had two guys scouring the internet and comparing a mother lode of smart stuff trying to determine where someone should get started. I instantly typed HomeKit into Google search, thinking it would be the easy way out, and was quickly disappointed. I was sure that Apple would have an all-encompassing (yet initially expensive) pool of the right hardware and software to make the smart home of your dreams easy to set up and secure out of the box. But Apple is still in the learning stages when it comes to smart things, too. You'll find plenty of things that work with HomeKit, but no single master HomeKit "starter pack" to buy.

Building a cohesive smart home is either difficult or expensive. And sometimes both.

Eventually, we came to the same two conclusions: you'll have to be a bit of a geek to go beyond something simple, and you should start with SmartThings. That's because SmartThings supports the right communications standards (Z-Wave and ZigBee) and has a great online community that can usually get the things which don't work out of the box up and running.

We also both agreed on one other thing — Android Things can't come soon enough.

Not because Android Things will be better or more secure (that'd be HomeKit which is why I went to Apple first) but because it will be free and easy to adapt. Existing smart products aren't going to go away. A company like Lutron isn't going to change anything or ditch their Caseta hub in favor of an Android Things solution, for example, but it wouldn't be hard for a company to build an interface that can bridge them seamlessly. Some existing products that are already sort of a universal hub, like the previously mentioned SmartThings, will also be able to integrate seamlessly. The adaptability of Android Things is a big deal for consumers who don't want to spend a boatload of cash.

Because Android Things is free to use, a lot of companies just getting started — even ones making things we never imagined could be smart — will use it. This is why Google is doing it in the first place: it knows that making it easy to adapt and free to use it will be adopted by companies big and small, and that gets Google in more and more living rooms.

Google will use Android Things to get in your living room the same way it used Android to get in your pocket.

Maybe the best part of Android Things is how we will interact with it all. No normal person should have to care about protocols or sequencing or any other geek factor when they want to upgrade to something like a smart door lock or smoke alarm. How it communicates with other smart devices to do its thing isn't important to the end user, only that it works and is easy to operate. Google Assistant instantly comes to mind, and I can soon see myself saying, "Do I need to buy eggs?" to my phone and having my smart refrigerator answer. But that's not the cool part — a web interface is.

And I don't mean pulling out your phone or laptop to turn on the downstairs lights here. I mean that a proper web interface that can be made to run on a small controller or a display on an appliance or anywhere, and as long as it's connected to a cheap Android Things-compatible hub you can take control of all your smart stuff. You can already do this with several existing smart hubs (like SmartThings; see the Android TV app) but if I'm right about the adoption of Android Things being huge, look for someone, somewhere to build the best user input/user interface device ever.

Best of all, Android Things will let the little guy have access to the same software as the big guys do. Little guys often do really cool things.

I like to tinker with stuff and am looking forward to seeing if I can adapt Android Things to replace my clunky home-built Python controllers for things like my aquarium lights or mailbox alert. I'll bet I can. And if I can, imagine what someone more serious about IoT development can do. I'm pretty pumped about Android Things now that we know a bit more about it and can't wait to see if I'm right or if it will be just another Google also-ran.

1 day ago

Best Horror Games for Oculus Go

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Best Horror Games for Oculus Go

Everyone needs a good scare once in a while

Horror games are always a fan favorite no matter what device you're playing them on. Nothing brings a thrill to gaming quite like fighting for your life, and nothing makes that feel more real than VR. Here are some of the best horror games you can find on your Oculus Go that you absolutely need to sink your teeth into. We did a horror game night here in nerd house playing these games which lead to a lot of screaming — and then a lot of laughter.

Word of advice, don't jump at your friend who thinks they're running from Slenderman. Turns out they might punch you!

Doors of Silence

Plug in your headphones and get yourself situated in a place where you won't knock anything over from flailing. There is nothing that can prepare you for the horrors that the Doors of Silence will bring you. For $2.99 on the Oculus Store I found Doors of Silence, and my expectations of horror were blown out of the park. I cried, I jumped, I let out gasps of shock and I've loved every minute of it.

From one horror junkie to the other, you have to try out this game. It's not just some cheese jumpscare that you feel more defeated than scared to encounter. It's a psychological horror that's going to put you on the brink of anxiety and then catapult you off the edge. This game captivated me early on and kept my attention the entire time.

See on Oculus Store

Buried Alive

Take a deep breath. Where are you? Looks like some psychopath put you in a coffin and then under about six feet of dirt. This maniac wants to watch you struggle and you're just a source of entertainment. In this psychological horror, you are faced with puzzles and tasks to get yourself away from death. With each puzzle that you complete you will be given the key to the next puzzle. For $0.99 on the Oculus Store you can test to see if you can escape this serial killer's clutches.

See on the Oculus Store

The Vault

The Vauls is $1.99 on the Oculus Store, and it's not going to disappoint you. This game breaks the mold for the more traditional horror games. Instead of giving you jump scares or making you anxious for survival by having 100 zombies jumping at you, it tasks you with being quiet.

The goal is to appease your jerk of a boss who cares more about the materials on the ship than he does your own life. So much so, he's willing to risk you for them. You'll have to sneak your way around the ship, collect the resources, and then escape. The beginning of the game moves a bit slower than I'd like, but it definitely gives you enough time to get the hang of the game before throwing you into the pits. Think you're up for it?

See on Oculus Store

Nightmare: The Escape

Slenderman is back and once again you've got to complete his sadistic puzzle in order to escape him. For $2.99 you can get Nightmare: The Escape right off the Oculus Store on your headset. Can you collect all the papers in time? Can you outrun the static? Test your ability to remain calm and focused during a life-or-death situation to see if you can beat Slenderman.

See on Oculus Store

Thoughts?

What are your favorite horror games? What kind of horror games do you wish existed? Tell us in the comment section below!

Oculus Go

Oculus Go

Oculus Go 32GB Oculus Go 64GB

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

Google's Digital Wellbeing initiative: Everything you need to know

3

Google's Digital Wellbeing initiative: Everything you need to know

Here's how Google is helping you take back control of your digital life.

At Google I/O 2018, Google announced Digital Wellbeing. It's a brand new approach to OS and app development that'll equip users with tools to help them find a better balance between their digital and real worlds.

Is it a new app? Is it Android P's killer feature? Will it make you feel better and solve world peace all at the same time? We answer all those questions and more for you right here.

What's Digital Wellbeing?

Digital Wellbeing is Google's initiative to help you understand your tech usage and help take back control of your life if that's something you feel you need. It's a combination of many things, including data and insight, tools, apps, content, and more, all of which are designed to help you put the living part of life back into perspective.

It's not just one app or one feature. It's an entire idea. It's a lifestyle change. It's identifying and accepting the problem that mobile technology can and does command a ton of our attention in ways that can be unhealthy. Digital Wellbeing, then, is just one part of a bigger home remedy to help treat that root issue.

Why is Google doing this?

The harsh effects of too much internet and smartphone usage have long been talked about, with smartphones commanding more and more of our attention as the years roll on. Recent studies show an uptick in smartphone usage correlating with increased mental health issues in teens, such as depression.

This phenomenon is believed to be driven primarily by the prominence of social media, with folks spending less time living their own lives to try and check in with everyone else's. It's what's generally referred to as "FOMO," or the "fear of missing out."

It's about helping you get back to what's important: your life.

It's that feeling you get when you see everyone's at a party having a good time while you're at home studying, or when your relatives send a "Wish You Were Here!" postcard from their dreamy vacation destination. FOMO typically manifests as anxiety those affected, a common ailment that can open the way to clinical depression and other mental health issues.

The effects of FOMO are a real concern in today's society, and smartphones and social media seemingly amplify those effects thanks to our ability to stay connected all day and digest the happenings of our favorite people, things, and media with the tap of a button.

And that's what the Digital Wellbeing initiative aims to address. Google believes that technology should only be used to help improve your life, and not be the absolute center of it. Whether you agree is up to you to decide.

To their credit, Google's homework suggests over 70% of smartphone users are looking for help in this area. Even if they're off by half that mark, it's enough to warrant an entire shift in the way they approach smartphone and app development.

Of course, Android being the world's dominant mobile OS means much of their work in this area will become tangible through updates to the system software and their various apps. Here's how Android will change in that regard.

How will Android help me?

While you're obviously in control of your feelings, emotions, and life, Google wants to spread awareness about the issue at least, and for those who decide they want or need a little help disconnecting, they will build apps, services, and features to make it easier. Here's how Android is changing to help you.

Dashboard keeps you informed

It begins with the app dashboard, a new feature coming as part of Android P.

The dashboard gives you an overview of your daily digital activity. It includes the overall time you spend using your phone, the time you spent within reach individual app, and how many notifications you get from those apps.

You can view all of this data by various time periods, so you'll get a good breakdown whether you're just interested in one particular hour or an entire week.

At its highest level, the dashboard is merely here to inform you of your habits, but if you want to take action, then it makes it easy to find the features that'll help you curb your usage.

Your digital nanny keeps you in check

So, you've taken the data from the dashboard and found that you spend way too much time on Facebook during work. What now?

This is where what we like to call your "app nanny" steps in. This feature allows you to set time limits or restrict usage of apps to specific times of the day on a per-app basis to keep yourself in check. When you hit your limit, the app icon is greyed out and inaccessible.

Do Not Disturb mode evolved

Another useful feature coming in Android P is even more aggressive notification control. You can now completely hide all notifications when you enter Do Not Disturb mode.

There's also a brand new Wind Down mode. It lets you automatically turn on a blue light or grayscale filter. The former is designed to reduce eyestrain to help you get to sleep at night, while Google's thinking with the grayscale is that you won't feel so compelled to use your phone if it doesn't have those things called "colors" which stimulate our brains.

It will be possible to turn your phone onto its face and have it automatically enter Do Not Disturb mode. It's not that it's incredibly difficult to do it already — in fact, you could even have it activated automatically once the clock strikes your preferred hour — but having a simple and intuitive gesture like this will make it easy to enable Do Not Disturb on the fly.

Android Oreo's notification features are still here

All of the above is in addition to notification channels, the granular notification controls that came as part of the Android 8.0 Oreo update. You can easily disable notifications for an entire app, but this feature allows you to specify which category of notifications you want to receive in any given app, so you can choose to be notified of nothing but direct messages on Twitter if you so wish.

What's more is that you can also set the priority of those notifications which will let you specify how much of an alert you'll get when there's something new. It could be limited to something as simple as a card in your notifications shade for less pertinent things, while more critical notifications can come in with sound and vibration.

What's changing with YouTube?

YouTube was Google's first example of apps which can tap into the data and controls offered by the dashboard. As with overall app usage, YouTube can show you exactly how long you've been watching a video.

The app also allows you to set a reminder to take a break after you've watched a certain amount of video, and you can even get your subscription notifications delivered to you as a scheduled periodic digest, so you're not constantly being badgered to watch the latest content from your favorite creators.

How to turn on YouTube's reminders to stop watching videos

What other tools will Google offer for this purpose?

The truth is that Google has been ebbing toward this play for quite some time, with many of their apps already exhibiting traits of Digital Wellbeing. For instance, Gmail and Inbox already have things like bundled notifications, priority inboxes, and smart replies. Google Photos' AI-driven library management already helps keep your photo albums organized. Android already lets you snooze your notifications to handle them at a later time.

That's not to mention the benefits of using Android Auto while driving or using the Google Assistant to automate your life using your voice. All of that stuff is still here, and they're likely to be refined over time as the bigger picture of this thing comes into focus.

It's all about family, too

Google's macro vision for Digital Wellbeing is to help you find balance in your life and your family, so family controls will be an even more significant part of what they do. Family Link is the central point of that realm. It gives parents the ability to monitor and manage their kids' devices, whether that's seeing which apps they've downloaded and how long they use those apps.

Parents will continue to get controls to manage screen time, set bedtime schedules, remotely lock devices, and approve or deny app downloads and purchases. In the future, they'll also get recommendations on education contents to keep their kids learning.

And then there's still the child-friendly YouTube Kids, Google WiFi's higher level network management (just in case they've gone and found some way to circumvent that Family Link stuff), and digital edutainment content Google will continue to push.

Will Digital Wellbeing improve my life?

That's up to you. Google is merely providing the data and tools. Ultimately, you make your own decisions about what is and isn't important to you, and about how you use the products you own and services to which you're subscribed.

There's no pressure to change the way you go about your days. No one is forcing you to give up your morning meal of cereal and Facebook. If you love keeping up with friends and family on social media all day and it makes you happy, that's OK. All of these features are there if you need them and completely out of the way if you don't.

When is Digital Wellbeing available?

Would you believe us if we told you that Digital Wellbeing is available right now? Android Oreo has notification channels and snoozing. Gmail and Inbox have snooze and smart reply features, as well as priority inbox and notification bundling. There's a Do Not Disturb feature on most phones today.

Digital Wellbeing begins with you. Today. Right now.

Even tighter notification control in YouTube can already be accomplished by managing individual alerts for each channel you subscribe to, and the changes announced at Google I/O will are already live in the YouTube app.

Long story short, Digital Wellbeing is already pretty much in full effect if you want it to be. The lone prerequisite here is that you have to want to disconnect. You could do that with actions as simple as clearing out your notifications tray. I can't tell you how many times I avoided an anxiety-inducing trip down the digital rabbit hole by declaring that the 30 or so notifications living in my status bar at any given time are not that important.

To that end, Digital Wellbeing is less of a feature and more of an ideology, and it truly begins with you. Google will most certainly continue updating and building apps with these core principles in mind, with the company looking to employ unique approaches to the concept appropriate for each respective service.

And they'll encourage third-party developers to do the same thing. There will be APIs for tapping into all this new data so developers can equip you with the information and means to block out all the extra noise these apps can create. There's no telling how long it will be before your favorite apps follow suit, or whether they'll do so at all. But history tells us developers will eventually take their cues from Google, so be sure to submit your feature requests and feedback to them if this is important to you.

That being said, there are some cool features coming specifically as part of Android P as it will serve as the spiritual launching pad for everything, with the forthcoming OS update tying it all together through the dashboard and further development of these wellness features. The ultimate goal here is to make these tools easier to find, use, and understand, and your decisions will be backed by real insight and metrics on how you use your device.

You can try a preview version of Android P on compatible devices right now, and you'll find much of these Digital Wellbeing features on display there. Look out for Android P to arrive later this year, but don't delay taking control of your digital life right now!

Android P

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1 day ago

It's DND, not D&D [#acpodcast]

7

It's DND, not D&D [#acpodcast]

Daniel Bader, Alex Dobie, and Jerry Hildenbrand talk about the perceived smoke and mirrors behind the demonstration of Google Duplex last week, and the real world implications of the technology. They also take another look at Android P beta, especially the new gestures it supports.

From there, it's a deep dive into OnePlus 6. With flawlessly smooth performance, it offers 90% of the quality of its competitors for 75% of the price.

Finally, President Trump is working to get ZTE back into business. But will the company be held accountable for violating U.S. sanctions?

Listen now

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2 days ago

Chromecast Buyer's Guide

14

Chromecast Buyer's Guide

Chromecast
Chromecast Audio
Chromecast
Chromecast Ultra

Chromecast

Chromecasts are cheap enough to get them all, but we can guide you to make sure you get the one you need.

Streaming media isn't a new idea. Internet radio and video sharing sites have been around for over a decade, and smartphones might not have become as popular (some say necessary) as they are today had Apple and Google not worked together in 2007 to bring H.264 YouTube streaming to the first iPhone. We want to watch and listen to the things we like on our own schedule, and we all want it to be easy to do while still looking and sounding great.

While there are dozens of different ways to stream media from the internet to your TV or stereo, Chromecast remains one of the most popular options because of the way you initiate things. Clunky and slow user interfaces are replaced by your phone or your web browser with the ability to handoff control between devices and to allow multiple people to get in on the fun. You are comfortable with the way your phone works, and you know how to use the tools it has. Adding in one button to send media streams to the television is just better than most anything else. Add in a low cost of entry and you have a recipe for success.

If you're thinking of buying a Chromecast, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure you pick the right one. That's where the Chromecast buyer's guide comes in. In five minutes you'll be able to make the right choice and get the device that suits your needs the best.

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