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2 months ago

Apps using Accessibility Services improperly could be removed from the Play Store

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Apps like LastPass and Tasker could be in danger because of this.

If you've ever used apps like LastPass, Tasker, Clipboard Actions, or Universal Copy, you've likely benefitted from Android's Accessibility Services. Accessibility Services were initially created as a way for app developers to create special tools and features to make their applications or games easier to use for those with disabilities, but certain titles have been tapping into Accessibility Services to allow for features that all users can take advantage of.

Unfortunately, according to emails that Google is sending out to numerous developers whose apps use Accessibility Services, some changes will need to be made soon.

In emails that these developers are receiving, Google states that applications using Accessibility Services should only make use of the system if they're directly benefiting those that have disabilities. Developers are told that they need to explain how using the service benefits these users, and if they don't meet requirements Google has created, their apps stand to be removed from the Play Store.

Within the email under the subtitle of "Action required", Google states –

If you aren't already doing so, you must explain to users how your app is using the 'android.permission.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE' to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. Alternatively, you can remove any requests for accessibility services within your app. You can also choose to unpublish your app.

Along with this, Google continues by saying that "serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts."

As someone that uses LastPass's App Fill feature on a daily basis, this is worrisome news. Users on Reddit have expressed plenty of concern over this move, and while this concern is justified, Joao Dias (the developer of AutoTools) told Android Police that Google's statement on this is too vague to be taken literally at the moment.

Google has yet to respond to the complaints following this news, but we'll be sure to let you know if/when they do.

Things to know when switching from iOS to Android

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2 months ago

HBO GO/NOW getting all eight Harry Potter movies in 2018

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Don't expect to be very productive this coming January.

There are certain movies that deserve to be watched over and over again, and the entire Harry Potter series falls into this category beautifully. The tale of the Boy Who Lived is one that never gets old, and starting at the beginning of next year, you'll be able to binge watch all eight titles on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

Business Insider's Kim Renfro broke the news on Twitter, and the titles will all be available to stream starting on January 1, 2018. On that same day, HBO will also be airing the entire series starting at 9:00 AM ET/PT with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and ending with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In addition to this, HBO Family will also air each movie in consecutive order starting January 2 and play one title each day at 8:00 PM.

This is the first time the Harry Potter movies have been available to watch on a streaming service, and although most wizards and witches likely already own hard copies of the titles, the fact that we'll soon be able to take them with us wherever we go is a thing of true beauty.

Google Assistant makes its way to HBO NOW, CBS All Access, and The CW

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2 months ago

A redesigned Snapchat app is in the works

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Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As a Millenial and technology enthusiast, I should have no issue using Snapchat. The app is made specifically with my age-group in mind, but even so, I still find using it to be a royal pain in the butt. Thankfully, a big redesign for Snapchat is (finally) in the works.

During the latest earnings call for Snap Inc., CEO Evan Spiegel announced that the company was working on a brand-new design for its application. The reason? A lot of people find it difficult to use. Shocker.

More specifically, Spiegel said –

One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback. As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use.

Speigel also addressed that the redesign would likely be "disruptive" for the company, at least in the short-term, but that it was a risk worth taking.

Snapchat initially started out as a basic platform for sending one-to-one disappearing messages, but since then, it's added Stories, filters, the ability to send cash to your contacts, a map for seeing where your friends are at in real-time, original content, and so much more – all without really changing the interface so that these features can exist in a way that makes sense.

A redesign of Snapchat is long overdue, and while an ETA for the updated app has yet to be announced, it's enough of a relief to know that something is actually in the works.

Snapchat on Android: Everything you need to know

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2 months ago

Snapchat on Android: Everything you need to know

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Whether you're new to the ephemeral social network or an advanced user, you can probably still learn a few tricks.

Snapchat is one of the largest social networks around, and it's probably the most polarizing one to boot. There's a ton of people, young and old, who just can't wrap their heads around why anyone would want to send pictures and messages that just disappear as soon as you look away (well, aside from a certain purpose that everyone seems to understand).

I've been an avid Snapchat user since the day it landed on the Play Store, and admittedly even I have a hard time expressing to skeptics why I and many of my friends find it so addictive. Despite the quip in the last paragraph, I've never used the platform to send (or receive) nude photos, and it's no secret that Snapchat for Android has lower quality images and slower feature rollouts than its iOS counterpart.

But none of that is enough to deter me and millions of others from exchanging countless self-destructing photos, videos, and messages every single day. It's a great way to keep up with the personal lives of your friends, get a peek at what happens behind the scenes with your idols, and quickly share photos and videos that just don't have enough mass appeal to be immortalized on Instagram or Twitter.

So maybe it's time to stop questioning why Snapchat is so popular, and instead start to figure out ... how the hell do you use it?

How to use Snapchat

Cella already extensively covered the basics of Snapchat last year, from its formative history to navigating its convoluted UI and, of course, the lenses and filters. It's still a great read with loads of information, so let's not dwell too much on the basics here — just know that the three-panel layout is largely unchanged, lenses are still one of the most fun parts of Snapchat, and disappearing messages are still as finicky and frustrating as ever.

Not now, Snapchat, the grownups are talking ... on Slack.

But here's the thing: even though Cella's article is still relevant, Snapchat has added a lot of new features over the last year, and it's become significantly more complicated as a result. A few gestures have been remapped to make room for new functions, so even if you've used Snapchat before, you might have to relearn a few shortcuts if you haven't been active in a while.

Download: Snapchat (free)

Getting familiar with Snapchat

What does my score mean?

You used to be able to swipe down from anywhere in the viewfinder to access your Snapchat profile, but that's been reallocated to a button in the top left corner (represented by your avatar) to make room for Snapchat's jumbled search feed.

Once you've made your way to your profile view, you'll notice a seemingly arbitrary number next to your username. This number is your Snapchat "score," but what does that mean exactly? The answer's actually pretty simple — it's just the number of snaps you've sent and received through your account's history.

For extra credit, tap the trophy icon underneath your username to jump into your Trophy Case. This works a lot like achievements on Xbox Live; Snapchat gives you small awards for the various ways you send snaps and otherwise use the app (i.e. zooming during a video snap, snapping in certain weather conditions, saving stories to your Memories, and so on). These trophies offer little more than bragging rights amongst your friends, but they're a fun way to gamify Snapchat and keep fans of collectibles coming back.

How do I use Snapcodes?

While you're in your profile view, it's impossible not to notice the giant speckled yellow block above all of your info. This block, called your Snapcode, works a lot like a QR code; position one in your Snapchat viewfinder, then long-press on the screen to instantly add the Snapcode's owner as a friend. Everybody's Snapcode looks a little different, with the black dots arranged in various patterns, and you can further personalize your own code by creating a Bitmoji, then choosing a Bitmoji Selfie — essentially emoticons based on your face.

Read more: Creating a Snapcode

This search panel is a mess.

Yes, it is. But let's make some sense of it. You can use the search bar to find anything from friends to related stories and search tags. Just below that are some of the current most relevant tags, and a long scrollable list of the top stories that people have contributed to. If you're on the hunt for a particular type of content, you can flip through different categories beneath the top stories, ranging from nightclubs and bars around you to concerts, animals, and travel.

At the very bottom of the search panel is a three-column section that lists your most recently added friends, suggests new people to add, and connects with your phone's address book to find contacts who are on Snapchat.

Read more: Snapchat's Universal Search

What are Bitmoji?

Bitmoji are those little animated characters you've probably seen your friends using in their stories. You can download the Bitmoji app from the Play Store, then create a cartoon caricature of yourself that integrates with your Snapchat account for a handful of personalized effects to use in your snaps. From there, you can put your Bitmoji into your Snapcode, use it with stickers, or choose from a handful of 3D animations in the lens selector to add to your snaps.

Read more: Setting Bitmoji shortcuts to your Snapchat contacts

Shazam integration

Music recognition seems like a bit of an oddball feature for a photo-sharing platform, but it's convenient nonetheless. Snap Inc. and Shazam partnered up back in December of last year, and since then you've been able to press and hold on the camera screen (the same way you access lenses) and have Shazam start listening and tell you what song is playing in the background.

Once you've identified a song, you can send it to your friends, post it to your story, or just dismiss it and come back to it later — every song you identify is saved under the Shazam tab in the settings, where you can find links to play the song on Google Play Music or Spotify, pull up lyrics and music videos, or delete any guilty pleasures you might've identified.

Read more: Shazam in Snapchat

Snap Map?

If you pinch in from the camera viewfinder, you'll be taken into Snap Map, where you'll see your Bitmoji standing in your exact location on a map powered by the open-source Mapbox platform. As you scroll around the map, you'll start to find your friends' Bitmoji as well, along with some location-based stories. You can tap a friend's Bitmoji to see when their location was last updated — which is basically just the last time they opened Snapchat.

This is a cool feature to enable when you're out in a social setting and want your friends to find you, but it can feel way too invasive and even dangerous to broadcast your location when you're home. Luckily, you can choose who's able to see your location in the settings, or opt out of the feature entirely by enabling Ghost Mode.

Read more: Snap Map does exactly what you'd think

About the dancing hotdog man...

You've undoubtedly seen the anthropomorphic dancing hotdog somewhere on the internet, either in your friends' snaps or as the subject of a meme on Twitter. That fun-loving frank has inadvertently become Snapchat's unofficial second mascot (the first being Ghostface Chillah, the white ghost in the company's logo), and the most prominent of its augmented reality lenses.

To make use of Snapchat's AR features, press and hold anywhere in the camera screen until a scrolling list of circular icons populates the bottom of the screen, near the shutter button. As always, you'll find various face filters, but thrown into the mix are a rotation of 3D characters (including your Bitmoji, the hotdog man, and others) that attach to surfaces in the room around you. If you're unhappy with their placement, you can move these characters around, resize them, and even move around them to see different angles.

To be honest, this is the feature that finally sold me on Bitmoji. It's silly, sure, but so is the rest of Snapchat, and it's fun to see a rendition of yourself animated in different ways all the time.

Read more: Update brings AR effects to your everyday life

When 10-second snaps aren't enough

Snapchat recently added support for its Multi-Snap feature on Android, which lets users bypass the built-in 10-second recording limit. Just keep holding the camera button after the red ring fills up to record up to six consecutive snaps that can all be shared to your story or sent to a friend simultaneously.

Each clip is displayed as a card that can be individually deleted, though you can't edit each card separately; any filters, text, or stickers added are applied to the collective Multi-Snap.

Read more: Snapchat lets you record 60-second Snaps ... sort of

Sending money in Snapchat

One of the features I find myself using most often in Snapchat is Snapcash, which lets you send money to your friends (and vice versa) just by typing the amount in the chat window. Both the sender and recipient will need to enable Snapcash, which is as easy as linking your debit card information in the settings.

There's an argument to be made that almost every banking app these days already has direct transfer options available, but Snapcash comes in handy when the two parties don't go through the same bank. Receipts are available in the settings, and all exchanges are processed by Square, rather than by Snapchat directly.

Read more: Snapcash

Adding URLs to your snaps

One of the best marketing features on Instagram Stories, Snapchat's biggest competition, is the ability to add links in posts, but it's unfortunately only available for business accounts with at least 10,000 followers. Snapchat took notice and brought the same feature to its own platform, without the annoying business account limitation.

To add a link to a snap, just hit the paperclip icon in the editor and type or paste the desired URL. Snapchat will open the link using an in-app browser, load the mobile version if possible, and confirm that you've input the correct link. Once added, you can make whatever other adjustments you want, then send the snap as usual. Recipients will be able to swipe up to visit the linked page, and you can share the snap to your story for maximum exposure.

Read more: Instagram Stories lets you share your day's best moments

Memories is like Snapchat's own Google Photos

Snapchat is ephemeral by nature, but sometimes you take a snap that you just don't want to forget. Luckily, swiping up from the camera feed reveals Memories, which backs up any snaps you've chosen to save to the cloud using Snapchat's servers. Much like Google Photos, this is a completely free service with unlimited storage for your photos and videos captured with Snapchat, and you can set any stories you post to automatically save to your Memories in the settings.

Read more: How to access and use Snapchat Memories

While perusing your Memories, you can tap an old snap to view the full-size image, and long press the preview to export it to your phone's gallery, delete the snap from Memories, or even edit and send the snap all over again. Snapchat used to place a large white border around older images, but it now simply denotes the post's age in the upper lefthand corner.

Read more: How to manage Snapchat Memories

Okay, I've got the hang of Snapchat. Now what about Spectacles?

Perhaps the most ambitious move Snapchat has made since its inception is the release of its Spectacles sunglasses. With an unmistakably quirky design, a constantly moving vending machine pop-up store, and a built-in camera that raised numerous privacy concerns, Spectacles have garnered a lot of attention over the last year or so.

But what do Spectacles do, exactly? Once you pair them to your phone through Bluetooth, all you have to do is press the button on the top of the left frame (right above the camera) and the Spectacles will begin capturing an eight-second video. There's a ring of LEDs by the right lens that lights up to alert those around you that you're recording, and once the video is finished it'll sync to your phone the next time you open Snapchat with the Spectacles on.

Point-of-view videos are neat, but the unique part of Spectacles is that they record circular video, which work natively with Snapchat for a much more immersive experience. The video punches in to fill your phone's entire screen, giving the illusion of a standard rectangular capture, but works with the accelerometer to follow your phone's orientation, changing the displayed content as you rotate your phone around. It works extremely smoothly, and once you start playing with videos from the Spectacles it becomes flat-out addictive.

Still have more questions about Spectacles? You're in luck — there's a Mr. Mobile video for that.

Having trouble?

Snapchat isn't perfect, and every once in a while you might run into some trouble with logging in, sending snaps, or otherwise malfunctioning features. Luckily, there's usually an easy fix.

How to fix Snapchat login errors

Got any other tips or tricks?

Let us know your favorite ways to use Snapchat in the comments below, and we'll update the article as new features for Snapchat on Android roll out.

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2 months ago

Skype Lite for Android is a throwback to a simpler (better?) Skype

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Skype got a major overhaul on Android earlier this year, but the unreleased Skype Lite harkens back to the old school design of the video and messaging service.

Skype Lite is aimed at the mobile market in India, and in this case, "unreleased" means possibly unstable. But depending on your Android device and region, you may still be able to install it. The design is much simpler than the new Skype, and it would be great to see a version of this app make its way to a wider audience.

Quite a few Skype users have pushed back against the latest design changes to the main Skype app on Android. The added bells and whistles, Snapchat-esque features, and new design are certainly different and haven't been well received by many. In contrast, Skype Lite has very few extra features and focuses on being a basic video and messaging app. And that's a good thing.

Skype without Snapchat

Skype Lite is split into three main headers: calls, chats, and discover, which is for bots. You can easily jump between these and message or call people or bots just like you would on normal Skype.

Skype Lite is purposefully made to be basic. There's no following people on yet another social network, and there's no capture feature. The app is just easier to use than the new version of Skype.

Skype Lite has a handy hamburger menu, rather than a plus icon that doesn't help that much. And it still lets you send photos within message threads just by tapping on a camera icon. Navigating the app is easy and familiar.

One design choice that adds extra steps is that to open your SMS messages you have to tap SMS insights to switch over to your texts. But overall, the app is very fluid.

Lite but usable

Design doesn't mean much without function, and Skype Lite doesn't disappoint. Messaging is quick, and video calls work well. It does precisely what a Lite version of an app is supposed to: deliver the basics of a service while being easier on your phone and data.

The features that are available are very basic. But for most users on mobile devices, Skype Lite is completely fine. It lets you talk to your friends, family, and colleagues without any fuss.

The app also supports SMS messaging, but it does not support the SMS relay that is seen on the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP) versions of Skype. The app supposedly also has SMS insights that automatically categorize messages for you, but in our testing, we couldn't get this feature to work.

Summing things up

Using Skype Lite makes it frustrating to use the new version of Skype on Android. Skype Lite is easy to navigate, does what you need it to do, and doesn't try to be something it isn't.

When you throw in support for SMS messaging, and the fact that it's designed to be lightweight, it can be argued that Skype Lite is the best version of Skype on Android, though at the moment it is still an unreleased app. Hopefully, in the future, Skype Lite goes mainstream and is available in all regions.

This app isn't generally available, and it's still rough around the edges, so we're not giving it a rating quite yet. But it shows a lot of promise and is great to use if it's available to you. You just might like it better than the full version of the app.

Download: Skype Lite (free)

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2 months ago

Google's new Files Go app offers easy storage management and file transfers

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Free up space and easily send files without an Internet connection.

Update 11/9/2017 – Google's Ceasar Sengupta announced that Files Go is back on the Play Store! Check it out at the link below 👀

Google's no stranger when it comes to creating apps to try new things and test out unexplored waters, and in this latest move from the company, a new application called "Files Go" recently made its way to the Play Store as part of an early access program before quickly being removed.

Files Go is being marketed as a "smart storage manager, and its main purpose is to help you easily see which files/apps are on your device and what ones you can delete so you can quickly free up precious storage.

Upon opening the app, you'll be met with two main home screens – Storage and Files. The Storage page is where you'll go to see how much storage is being used of the available space on your device, and you'll also have quick links for cleaning application caches and deleting any photos, videos, or applications that Files Go thinks you should remove.

On the Files page, you can browse through all of your phone's content by downloads, received files, images, videos, audio, and documents. Below these tabs, you'll be able to send and receive files via Bluetooth to other people that also have the Files Go app – no Internet connection required.

Although anyone can technically download and use Files Go, the app is part of Google's "Go" series of services. As such, it's targeted specifically at users in developing markets with slower internet speeds and smaller allowances of bandwidth.

You can download the Files Go APK here, and as long as you're running Android 5.0 Lollipop or later, you should be good to go. However, seeing as how the app's release notes mention that this is an "early dev build", you should expect a fair amount of bugs.

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2 months ago

Chrome updates set to kill annoying redirects and trick-to-click popups

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New user protections coming with Chrome 64 and Chrome 65.

The team behind Google Chrome knows there are a lot of things that we all hate about the internet. One of those things is the way a website can force you to a completely different page or even open a new tab because you clicked on something you wanted to see or went to a URL that was supposed to be something cool. And these are more than an annoyance — it's a great way to distribute malware and trackers from adware. Ugh.

While sometimes page redirects are an accident, the behavior is still something that needs to die in a fire. Solutions like blocking all scripts are bad because they block plenty of things we want to see. The Chrome team just might have the solution, and it's coming with updates to Chrome 64 and Chrome 65 for both the desktop (including Chromebooks) and Android.

With Chrome 64, Google plans to tackle auto-redirects. We've all been there: you open a new tab or web page and just as it starts to load you get whisked away to a different page, often filled with nonsense or surveys or any other thing you didn't ask for an never wanted to see. It's frustrating, especially when you can't go back or you get prompted to download random suspicious stuff. All you can do in those situations is close the page or tab and try to find your way back to where you wanted to be before the foolery happened.

Mostly, this comes from third-party content that has been embedded in a web page. It could be an ad or some sort of widget or almost any embedded iframe causing it, but that shouldn't matter to the end user. It's just bad.

This is all great news for anyone who regularly uses the internet. Which is all of us.

With Chrome 64, every redirect from a third-party iframe will show an info bar instead of sending you off to some other page. This way we can decide if we want to navigate away or stay on the page we're looking at. If we're interacting with an iframe, like clicking an embedded YouTube video to open it on YouTube in a new tab, the request goes through as normal — this only applies to things you didn't click and didn't expect to send you off.

We can get more than we asked for when we are interacting with a web page, too. Google has two things planned that should help.

With Chrome 65, websites that try to circumvent Chrome's pop-up blocker by opening a new tab for a thing you clicked while navigating the original tab to some other page will be blocked with the same style of info bar. This gives us the choice of taking a look versus being forced.

Some abusive experiences are harder to autodetect, but Google plans to use the same type of data as its Safe Browsing feature to kill off deceptive page elements.

Two examples given are a hotlink disguised as a play button that opens a new tab instead of playing a video, and an invisible link over a close button which can open anything when what you're trying to do is close some ad or overlay.

These changes come in January 2018 and to help web developers prepare Google is building out an Abusive Experiences Report tool that site owners can use to see if anything that would cause a bad experience has been found so they can fix it. If a web page is found to have this sort behavior and isn't fixed in 30 days, Chrome will prevent it from triggering any new windows or tabs.

These sound like great features, and should help make the web a better — and safer — place!

Chromebooks

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2 months ago

PlayStation App finally updated with a modern interface

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The PlayStation App has always been something of an eyesore, but the latest 17.11.0 update finally fixes that.

No matter how big of a PlayStation fan you are, there's no denying that the PlayStation App has been ugly as sin for far too long at this point. Sony's made solid improvements to PlayStation Messages and Communities, but the main PlayStation App has continued to look like something that hadn't been updated since the days of Gingerbread.

Thankfully, with the latest 17.11.0 update, the PlayStation App has been completely redone with an interface that looks like it actually belongs in 2017.

The app is now broken up into four main sections – What's New, Friends, Notifications, and Profile. What's New functions similar to the page by the same name on your PS4, showcasing new games you might be interested in, trophies your friends have received, status updates, and more.

You access these different pages from the bottom navigation bar, and tapping on the PlayStation icon in the middle will reveal a menu for seeing upcoming events, looking at your trophies, going to the PlayStation Store, etc. Also present here are quick links to Sony's other PlayStation apps, including PlayStation Messages, Communities, the new Second Screen app, PS Video, and PS Vue.

The update is available now on the Google Play Store, and as long as you're running Android 4.1 or later, you should be able to download it without any issues at all.

Two new PlayStation PlayLink games are now on the Play Store

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2 months ago

CrossOver on Chrome OS lets you run Windows apps on Chromebooks

25

Supported on Chromebooks running Android 5.0 or later with x86 processors.

Over the past year or so, Chrome OS has gone from an affordable computing solution for the classroom into something that's also practical as a daily operating system for a lot of people. Chrome OS's biggest limitation still remains with a lack of powerful desktop applications compared to the likes of Windows and macOS, but CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta is hoping to bridge that gap.

CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta was previously existing as an invitation-only application called CrossOver Android Technology Preview, but with the rebrand to CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta, anyone can now download the app to their Chromebook from the Google Play Store.

However, there is a slight catch.

In order to run CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta, you'll need to be using a Chromebook with an x86 processor and running Android 5.0 Lollipop or later. A lot of current Chromebooks should meet these two requirements, but not all will (such as ARM-based models of the Samsung Chromebook Plus).

Once CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta is downloaded to your Chromebook, you'll be able to search for and download more than 13,000 Windows applications that are compatible with the service. There are already a lot of big names here, such as Microsoft Office, Quicken, and Steam, and you can always try downloading other apps within CrossOver if they aren't officially supported.

CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta is currently free to download for anyone that wants to give it a shot, but once the service does exit the beta stage, you'll likely need to pay a fee in order to keep using it. Pricing and an ETA for the end of the beta have yet to be announced, but in the meantime, it can't hurt to give this thing a whirl.

Chromebooks

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2 months ago

This is the essential NaNoWriMo survival kit

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These tools can help you to survive NaNoWriMo.

November has dawned, and while for many people this means No Shave November or prepping for the holidays, for me and hundreds of thousands of other fiction writers around the world, November is for writing a novel. For us, November is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where we try to write a complete novel of 50,000 words or more inside of a month without losing our minds in the process.

We're six days into the chaos, so I've collected my survival kit. These include the technology, apps, and accessories that I use to survive when I'm spending hours each night staring at a screen and manically typing.

Dabble Writer

The most important aspect of NaNoWriMo is having a writing program that is easy to use and does absolutely everything that you want it to. In years past I've used Google Docs, Scrivener, Word, and even one year where I tried to write by hand. Out of all the programs I've played with, though, my experience with Dabble Writer has been the best, hands down.

This is a web program that lets you manage your novel, add chapters, scenes, edit and adjust your plotline, and so much more. It's all online, and while there isn't a mobile app available quite yet, it does everything you need it to without getting in the way of your actual goal — writing a novel. There is even a special mode for NaNoWriMo, which will automatically sync your word count with the main NaNo website, making keeping your word count up to date simple and easy. There's even a feature to export to word to back up your manuscript, and since everything is saved on the cloud you can bounce from one computer to the next without having to worry about losing work in the process.

Dabbler usually requires a monthly subscription of about $4.99, but they're running a trial for anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, which will give you free access through December 6th. Additionally, NaNo participants can 20% off for the year, and NaNoWriMo winners can grab it for 50% for a year.

Download: Dabble Writer ($4.99/month)

Starbucks app

During November, I tend to spend basically every spare moment tucked into a corner typing away towards that 50k goal. Doing that without something to keep me going can be pesky, so I tend to drink coffee. A lot of coffee. To make sure that I get that perfect latte, and that I'm not wasting perfectly good writing time waiting in line, I use my Starbucks app.

I can order ahead and pick up my drink when I arrive, and I can get as much espresso as will fit into a cup, to make sure that those neurons are still firing properly. It's also easy to load up a caffeine budget on the app, and since I'm a gold member, I even earn myself free goodies in the process.

Download: Starbucks (free)

Evernote

Trying to keep track of everything that my brain throws at me for a new story is never an easy prospect, and in the days before smartphones, you could generally find me carting around a folder filled with printouts, scrawled notes, pictures I'd taken, and anything else I thought I might need during the course of my writing.

Evernote made that so much easier. I can add notes, create Notebooks to hold information for characters or settings, and save photos to those Notebooks as well. With the web clipper for Chrome, I can also snag important snippets and save links, and it's all synced between my mobile device and computer. I can even draw doodles for family crests of chunks of map that pop into my head at an inopportune moment.

Download: Evernote (free)

Chromebook

While apps and programs to write with are all handy, they don't do me any good if I don't have a solid device to do the actual writing on. While I have a desktop and a MacBook that I could be using, I've found that my Chromebook gets the job done so well that I haven't touched either of them since Halloween.

My Chromebook is light, easy to use, and when it comes time to go hunting for inspiration it's a convertible, so I can use it more like a tablet. While the first few hours of writing without a caps lock was a little bit jarring, once I got into the swing of things I never looked back. Because I only open the window I'm writing in, there aren't really any distractions to keep me from working on my novel.

While I'm using an Asus Chromebook, the one that will do you the best is the Samung Chromebook Plus. Convertible, light, easy to use, and available for about $425, it does an awesome job of letting you strike out distractions and just get right to work.

See at Amazon

Spotify Music

Getting into the right mood for whatever scene I'm working on can easily be the most difficult part of sitting down to write each day. That's where music comes in. While I've got a solid 30GB of saved music on an external drive, in the last few years I've made the jump to Spotify Music. I pay $14.99 each month for the family plan, and it's worth every last penny.

I've got access to an absolutely massive collection of just about every genre, with playlists that Spotify creates from my listening trends, and thousands upon thousands of playlists for a specific genre or mood. It's also easy to transfer my own music into Spotify through local files so that I can listen to everything all from one place. Being able to jump between radio stations, playlists, local files, and even top music around the world, all without ever being interrupted by a commercial makes it easier to jump into my story and get to work.

Download: Spotify (free, subscriptions)

Are you writing?

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit that aims to get people writing and telling the stories that matter to them. While writing a novel is always difficult, doing it in just 30 days is a marathon, and having some help makes it easy to hit your goals everyday. Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Do you use any of these apps to help you write? Let us know about it in the comments below!

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2 months ago

Google Search and Maps will soon show restaurant wait times

3

A new tool for planning your night on the town.

Whether you're out and about with friends, family, or just want to hit up your go-to restaurant on your own, there's no worse feeling than getting to your favorite eatery only to find out you'll have to wait an hour before being served. With the latest update to Google Search and Maps, this will soon be a thing of the past.

Search and Maps already show up-to-the-minute data for how busy a certain business or location is, but coming soon to these two services, you'll be able to see how long wait times are at restaurants.

To see these times, just search for the place you'd like to eat at, go to the business details, and where you can already see stats for how busy a place is, there will be new information under "Plan your visit" that tells you how long people typically wait based on the current time.

If you want to get even more detailed stats, you can also tap on the hour bars to see wait times for specific hours throughout the day to get an idea of when you'll wait the longest to grab your favorite slice of pizza or homemade chili.

Wait times will soon appear on Search and Maps, and Google says they'll be available for millions of restaurants around the globe.

Google Maps makes it easier to find parking with your phone

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2 months ago

Google Pixel 2 XL adds new display profiles, UI changes to address burn-in in latest update

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Google Pixel 2 XL

This is a nice development.

The fervor around the Google Pixel 2 XL's display has died down somewhat following Google's detailed explanation of how it plans to handle the screen going forward, and now we're seeing software hitting the phone that reflects Google's intentions. With the latest update, nominally carrying the November security patch, Google has made multiple changes to improve the Pixel 2 XL's display.

First, it has implemented a change to the color profiles. Now rather than simply toggling on "vivid colors" in the display settings, you have three options: "boosted," "natural" or "saturated." It looks to us like the "boosted" option is more akin to the old "vivid colors" option of before, which didn't seem to make a huge difference in the look of the display, while "natural" is self-explanatory and "saturated" makes the biggest difference to our eyes.

Google Pixel 2 XL screen mode settings

Even with "saturated" set, don't expect the Pixel 2 XL's display to all of a sudden come alive and look like a Galaxy Note 8 with "adaptive display" turned on. You'll get a bit more color than the other two settings and an all-around punchier range, but it's clear that Google's intentions are to keep the Pixel 2 XL looking accurate rather than eye-pleasing and unnatural.

The latest update is also making changes to other display aspects, focused on limiting the amount of burn-in the Pixel 2 XL's display suffers from. These changes include a small reduction in the maximum screen brightness, as well as a navigation bar that now fades out after periods of inactivity. Both of these changes were previously included in the Android 8.1 Developer Preview, but it's great to see Google already implementing them in stable builds. The hope is that together these changes will reduce the strain on the screen and keep it from deteriorating faster than usual.

In an explanation on the Pixel User Community, Google says that further enhancements for the Pixel 2 XL's display will come alongside the December security patch as well. The updates, while of course focused on fixing complaints around the Pixel 2 XL, is also available on the standard Pixel 2. Also included is a supposed fix for the Pixel 2's "clicking" issue in the earpiece.

How are you finding your Pixel 2 XL's display after the latest update? Let us know in the comments!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Best Buy Verizon Google Store Project Fi

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2 months ago

Google Photo Books now available in Canada

7

Google's physical photo books are now available in Canada.

One of the more surprising announcements at this year's Google I/O conference was Google Photo Books: you would be able to order a physical photo book intelligently picked from your Google Photos library. Photo Books became available soon after and now have now expanded to the great white north.

Canadian users can now order their own Photo Book, starting at $17.99 for a soft cover book with 20 pages. Users can pick their desired photos, or let Google's algorithms do their thing. Suggested photo books are typically generated after taking a lot of photos during a trip, or of certain subjects like kids and pets.

Are you interested in ordering a Google Photo Book? Let us know down below!

Learn more about Google Photos!

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2 months ago

Shared lists and games might be coming to Allo

21

Big things are in the works for Allo.

As much as I love using Allo, Google's messaging service is still nowhere near as popular as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc. Allo already has a lot of compelling features that are a lot of fun to use if you actually give the platform a chance, and with the recent discovery of "Allo Activities", it looks like that point will soon be even more prominent.

The team at Android Police recently got their hands on screenshots and a video of these Activities, and while the presence of these new features has yet to be confirmed by Google, everything we're seeing here does look legit. So, what exactly are Allo Activites?

Whenever this is introduced, a new + icon will appear in your Allo toolbar above the area where you compose a message, and tapping on it will reveal various activities that you can launch. Tapping on this will reveal options for attaching a file or sending your location to whoever you're talking to, and while these two features have been present in Allo for some time, there's a lot more here that we've never before seen.

One of the new activities is titled as "Shared List", and as you can probably guess, this is a built-in list within Allo where you can add items to share between you and the person/people in your conversation. Although you can already share to-do lists with people through a variety of other apps, having the ability to do so right within Allo is a nice touch for those that use it.

Along with the Shared List, Allo Activities will also introduce games for the first time in Allo history. There appear to be four games, including Quick, Draw!, Group Chess, Pet Hotel, and Toadal Pondage. They look to be fairly simple, and after tapping on whatever one you'd like to play, it'll load within your conversation before popping up.

We don't know when Allo Activites will officially launch (or if they ever will), but this seems like a smart move on Google's part. As solid of a messaging service as Allo already is, there's still not a big enough argument to be made for getting people to convert from platform's they're already comfortable with. However, if Google plays its cards right with Activites, it could turn Allo into more than basic messaging. Stay tuned.

Allo: Everything you need to know

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2 months ago

Google Play Movies now offering UHD content in the UK

7

Users in the UK can finally purchase 4K content from Google Play.

Google brought 4K UHD content to its Play Movies service for the U.S. and Canada last year, but it hasn't expanded that content much further until now. Starting today, users in the United Kingdom can finally join in on the 4K revolution and purchase movies in ultra-high definition (though at a premium over 1080p, of course).

In Google's support page, HDR is mentioned a number of times for U.S. users, but it's important to note that that's not coming to the UK (at least, not yet). To watch UHD content, users will need a Chromecast Ultra or "some models of Android TV," as well as a 15 Mbps download speed. Of course, you can also view your content on your computer through the Purchased section on YouTube — and any UHD content can be played back at lower resolutions, as well.

Of course, the biggest problem with 4K content is that most people still don't have a way of viewing it, with 1080p TVs still commonplace in most households, and most computer monitors and smartphone displays topping off at QHD. Luckily, Black Friday is right around the corner, and TVs are always some of the most heavily discounted items — so why not keep an eye on the deals?

Learn more about Google Play Movies and TV

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