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18
Apr

U.S. Supreme Court won’t take up legal challenge to Google’s book-scanning project


The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take on a legal challenge to Google’s book-scanning project by a group of authors. That means a previous ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Google’s favor will stand.

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Google first began scanning millions of books in 2004 so that users can search their text for words and phrases. In 2005, a group of writers, along with the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit against Google, stating that Google’s efforts went beyond the fair-use doctrine, depriving them of revenues from their works.

The case was dismissed in 2013, but the authors appealed the decision. According to Reuters:

Google argued that the effort would actually boost book sales by making it easier for readers to find works, while introducing them to books they might not otherwise have seen. The company made digital copies of more than 20 million books, according to court papers. Some publishers agreed to allow Google to copy their works.

In the end, today’s decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case means that the lower court ruling, made in October 2015, will stand as the final word on the matter:

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

18
Apr

NVIDIA Shield Android TV update brings new games, March security patch and more


NVIDIA has pushed another software update for the Shield Android TV, bumping it to version 3.1. The update brings a number of fixes and additions to the hardware, like support for new games, additional Shield features like mouse navigation and more. In addition, you’ll get the March security patches and some enhancements to some of the Marshmallow features.

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NVIDIA’s change log notes the following changes:

  • Optimizations for New Games
  • New SHIELD Features: Adds mouse navigation using SHIELD controller’s right stick. This feature is supported automatically in apps that don’t use the right stick. Example: Google Chrome browser (install from Google Play store using a PC).
  • Enhancements: Marshmallow functionality and stability improvements such as external USB drive detection, FTP write access, HDMI-CEC, idle/sleep stability, SD card formatting, mouse support, and more.
  • Monthly Android security updates, including the March 2016 partner security bulletin.

You can grab the update as an over-the-air download from your Shield Android TV now. Be sure to let us know your thoughts after the update in the comments.

See at Amazon

18
Apr

Can a Chromebook replace my MacBook or Windows laptop?


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First you have to think about what you really want to do with your next laptop.

Any time there’s a discussion about Chromebooks, you’ll find people saying how they replaced their last laptop with one. You’ll also find people saying they could never replace their laptop with one. Both answers are right, but it always leads to one more question — can I replace my current MacBook or Windows laptop with a Chromebook?

The answer is easy, yet complicated. “What do you want to do with it?”

Chromebooks are really good at a lot of things. In fact, the things they do well they do better at than most any other laptop out there. When it comes to getting online easily, browsing your favorite places to do things like chat with your friends or do some shopping, or even reading your favorite tech blogs, it’s hard to beat a Chromebook. They’re also excellent when it comes to security done simply — your online data is secured by Google, with experts keeping track of it so you don’t have to. When you sign into your Google account, things like usernames and passwords, or credit card numbers and even your photos are stored where only you can have access to them. And Google makes everything easy to understand with a privacy policy that’s in plain English so you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out exactly what they will do with it all.

Chromebooks are great for getting on the internet easily and safely

Even your applications are tied to your Google account, and any local data they need to store is only accessible when you’re securely signed in. That also means you can pick up any Chromebook, sign in, and things will be exactly the same, with the same online data and the same applications in the same places. To round all this out, when you try to visit a web site that has known security issues, you’re warned before you get there because Google keeps track of them for you through the Chrome browser. For people who want to stay safe online without the hassle of doing it themselves, Chrome is great.

If getting on the internet easily and safely, while still having a great experience is what you’re looking for, chances are a Chromebook is the best way to do it.

Doing more than web surfing

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Of course, plenty of us do more than surf the internet with a laptop. The Chrome store has a lot of great applications that can do a lot of things — entertainment, business and productivity are all well covered — but they can’t do everything as well as a MacBook or a good (good being the key word here) Windows laptop. And some things they really can’t do at all.

Business users have free or paid access to Google Docs — a web-based platform that includes a word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation app among other things, included as much secure online storage as you’re willing to pay for if the free 15GB per user isn’t enough. And these services are done well — Google Docs powers Mobile Nations as well as plenty of other companies both big and small. It’s easy to create, share and collaborate with any size team, and Chromebooks are able to work with Docs while you’re offline and synchronize things when you get a connection. But there are often compatibility issues with the proprietary document formats used with Microsoft Office. You can import a Microsoft Office document into Google Docs and chances are everything will work just fine, but when you’re collaborating with other users of a shared file and they’re using Office, things usually don’t work nearly as well. Google Docs are a great way for any size team to get some work done, as is Microsoft Office — but they don’t play together perfectly.

Microsoft sees the value of bringing Office applications to Chromebooks. For now, you’ll either need to only work online or have another computer with Microsoft Office installed to use them, but it’s a great start. This is an area where we see plenty of support from the folks in Redmond, and we hope to see a version of Office apps that you can buy and use on your Chromebook that does away with the current requirements.

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Media production is another place where Chromebooks can be lacking. There are plenty of tools available for editing photos, video and audio, but nothing suitable for people who need to produce content that they expect to be paid for. You can import a good image — one that requires just a little adjustment to make it “pretty” — and won’t have any issues, but if you need to process a big batch of pictures or do a lot of touch-up with RAW files you’ll find there’s no real offline substitute for Photoshop or Lightroom in the Chrome store, though Adobe has a program where Creative Cloud applications are streamed to qualified educators and students.

The same goes for video and audio files. There are applications to do basic minor editing, but creating music or a broadcast track or building a video from multiple clips with “proper” cuts and edits is difficult to say the least. There are Chromebooks out there with the processing power to do all of this, but as of right now, there is no software available that’s robust enough. Editing something to share with your friends using apps from the Chrome Store or online services is easy enough, but none of them compare to expensive and powerful applications built for other platforms. This is something I hope Google is thinking about.

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Software developers might also find that a Chromebook doesn’t fit their needs. WebDev is great on a Chromebook. There are editors in the Chrome Store that are set up for writing HTML or Ruby or JavaScript and most every other language a web developer needs. You can sync files with Google Drive, and open the local copy in Chrome for debugging. Of course, you’ll need to have a look at things in other browsers on a different machine to test against IE or Firefox, but the bulk of the work is easy to do from most any Chromebook.

But if you want to write code and compile it, your options are pretty slim. There are web-based services that allows you to do this, but it’s not the same. Again, it’s a matter of software. There are Chromebooks capable of software compilation (though most don’t quite have the horsepower to do it well) but nobody is building an IDE that lets you manage, write and build files filled with code.

Kingdom Rush Frontiers is really fun, but it’s not BattleBorn.

The biggest issue for many is when it comes to gaming. Now I’m not saying that any laptop — even the new models built specifically for gaming — are great at playing all the latest AAA titles. Especially if that laptop has an glowing apple on the back. But any high-end laptop is going to be better at gaming than even the best Chromebook is.

This includes VR support, too. There are rumors that HP is building a monster of a Chromebook with gaming and VR support, and I’ll be excited if it happens, but plenty of software changes will need to be made to support the advanced graphical instructions and functions that you need for a great gaming experience. And the people making games would need to get on board, too — ask any Linux gamer about that.

You can get a lot of really fun games from the Chrome Store, and there are a lot of cool browser based games out there. But the experience falls short of what you’ll get when you install Steam on a Windows or Apple laptop. Old titles that play great on a laptop — think Diablo II or the Age of Empires series — won’t play on your Chromebook. While casual games can be a lot of fun to play, gamers should look elsewhere.

Linux fans

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I didn’t forget you. Most mid-range Chromebooks will fill your needs once you visit the Crouton Git and start installing . You can have a “real” Linux environment beside Chrome OS, and do everything you already do provided your hardware is up to snuff.

In fact, the Pixel makes one of the nicest Linux Ultrabooks you’ll ever use.

They’re not for everyone

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As you can see, a Chromebook isn’t the one machine that can suit everyone. Even Google doesn’t try to make that claim, because for power-users — even part time power-users — they can’t do it all.

I love my Chromebook. I use it any time I can while I’m away from my desk, and that includes work-related stuff. I wrote this blog post with it, edited the images I needed to edit with it, and went through our system of building the blog page and the virtual paperwork needed to keep track of it all. But I can’t do that all of the time. Sometimes I have to use my MacBook.

I still think a Chromebook is the best computer for most of us, because most of us aren’t doing the things it doesn’t do well. But most doesn’t mean all, and there are some really valid reasons why a Chromebook might not work for you.

And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Google produces Chromebooks so that people who want a great experience on the web can get just that without much of a hassle. Open the lid, turn it on, sign in and go — there’s a lot to be said for that simple experience because it works so well. When you start adding anything to it, you have to be very careful that the experience most people want stays great. Maybe one day we can do all this stuff on a Chromebook, or maybe not. The important part is that the things we can do on a Chromebook are done well.

18
Apr

Samsung Pay adds support for TD Bank


TD Bank is the latest financial institution to get support from Samsung Pay. Customers can now add any of their TD credit and debit cards to the payment service on their compatible Samsung phone.

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This announcement comes right after Regions Bank gained similar support. Samsung Pay now supports over 130 banks and credit unions in the United States, support which customers can take advantage of using their Galaxy S7, Galaxy S6, or Note 5. The service recently launched in China, and is expected to arrive in Canada later this year.

More: Samsung Pay supported banks

18
Apr

Ola and Uber suspend surge pricing in Delhi after government warning


Ride-sharing services Uber and Ola have announced that they will temporarily suspend surge pricing after receiving a warning from Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The city is trialling an odd-even rule to combat congestion on its roads, and has set prescribed fares for taxi services at ₹16 per km for air-conditioned cabs and ₹14 for those without air conditioning.

To deal with the increased demand, Uber and Ola have turned to surge pricing to get more drivers on the roads, with the former routinely increasing fares by five times the normal amount, which comes out to ₹35 per kilometer for the entry-level UberGO.

The move drew the government’s ire, with anyone found to be flouting the prescribed fares risking losing their driving license and their car.

Strict action, incl permit cancellation n impounding vehicle, to be taken against taxis which charge rates more than govt prescribed rates

— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 18, 2016

In light of the statement, Uber and Ola have said that they will temporarily suspend surge in the city.

Given the threat to the livelihood of our partners, at the expense of reliability, we are temporarily suspending surge with immediate effect

— Uber Delhi (@Uber_Delhi) April 18, 2016

We’ve temporarily pulled out Peak Pricing in Delhi, in support of Govt’s #OddEven initiative. Travel at 1x fares & make #OddEven a success

— Ola (@Olacabs) April 18, 2016

In a statement to Livemint, Gagan Bhatia, General Manager for Uber North said:

Given the threat of the Delhi government to cancel permits and impound vehicles of our driver partners, we are temporarily suspending surge in Delhi with immediate effect. We hope to work with the government to keep Delhi moving especially during this time when the citizens need us the most.

Not surging is saying we should be just like a taxi and be unreliable when people need us most.

This isn’t the first instance where taxi aggregators have faced off against the government. Last week, Karnataka’s transport division seized more than 20 vehicles belonging to Uber and Ola drivers, saying that they did not conform to the state’s recent ruling where it banned surce pricing.

The ruling, which came into effect on April 2, says that taxi services cannot set fares higher than what’s prescribed by the government, which is ₹19.50 per km for air-conditioned cabs and ₹14.50 for ones without air conditioning. While those fares are far higher than what Uber and Ola charge, a 3X surge on UberBlack would automatically be above the prescribed limit.

With the government looking out for people’s interests and taxi aggregators continuing to say that surge pricing is essential to their businesses, it will be interesting to see how things turn out. What do you guys think of the move by the government to curb surge pricing?

18
Apr

Telus begins VoLTE pilot in British Columbia on select Android phones


Telus, Canada’s second-largest wireless provider, has launched Voice Over LTE, or VoLTE, as a pilot in a small area of the British Columbia Lower Mainland before rolling it out to the rest of the country.

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Currently available for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4, with other devices to come in the “near future,” according to a support page for the service, Telus notes that there are multiple benefits to using VoLTE:

  • Increased availability of HD Voice
  • Simultaneous use of voice and LTE data
  • Reduced delay to dial tone

As with VoLTE on both Rogers and Bell, Telus does not deduct the data consumed for a VoLTE call from a customer’s monthly bandwidth.

18
Apr

Podcasts are now available in Google Play Music


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Google has officially started rolling out podcasts as a new feature of Google Play Music. Launching today on both the web and in the Android app, you’ll be able to discover, subscribe, and listen to your favorite podcasts right in the same place you already listen to music. Beyond searching for specific podcasts you already know, Google will also offer you new shows based on your activities, mood, and interests, much like it already does for music.

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From Google:

Starting today on the web and rolling out on Android in the U.S. and Canada, we’ll connect you with podcasts based on what you’re doing, how you’re feeling and what you’re interested in. Similar to our contextual playlists for music, we want to make it easy to find the right podcast—whether you’re a podcast aficionado or listening for the first time.

Podcast creators can easily get started with bringing their shows to Google Play through Google’s podcast portal. You can, of course, subscribe to the Android Central Podcast in Google Play right here.

18
Apr

No, you don’t need root to theme your phone


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“I need root to do that, don’t I?” “No. You absolutely do not.”

Changing the way your phone looks or acts can seem like sorcery to some users. When someone sees my custom icons, they sometimes ask if I had to root my phone to do it. They’ll see the covers in Action Launcher and think that we had to do something special and/or forbidden to do it. They’ll see our Kustom widgets and think there’s no way they could do that on their phone. They think you have to void your warranty to make your phone look better.

Well, I don’t root my phones to make them look better. And you don’t need to either.

Yes, there are some things you can’t change without root (though that list seems to get smaller and smaller every year). Without root, you may not be able to replace your navigation buttons with colored or stylized icons. You may not be able to make your themes extend to the notification shade, or into the rest of your apps. You may not be able to change your pixel density or give yourself that glorious system-wide dark mode. These are a small sampling of what can be done with root access, but there’s still plenty to enjoy without that particular modification.

I don’t care. I can make my phone look pretty without all that.

I do not want to hassle with making sure my Xposed modules don’t conflict with my special kernel and the RRO layers I’m using to dark-theme my apps. I have long said that root just isn’t necessary for most of us, and it’s become even more true since I said it two years ago. Root can take themes to another level, but it’s not a level I need. It’s not a level that can easily be shared with the majority of our readers.

Even without root, we’ve got plenty of theming tools at our disposal. There’s a hell of a lot that we can do to make our phones look newer, cooler, or just different.

Wallpapers

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If you’re using the wallpaper that came with your phone out of the box, stop reading right now and go grab a new one from our Wallpaper Wednesday collections.Grab one, download it, and set it on your phone. Long-press on your wallpaper and the option to change it usually pops up.

And now that we’ve gotten some new ink on your home screen, let’s go find something that fits you even better. Got a work of art you just adore? Set it as a wallpaper! Looking forward to an awesome new movie? We’ve got wallpapers for them, and awesome themes to go with them. Just want your phone to show as much team spirit as your phone? There’s millions of wallpapers out there for your favorite teams, from Football to Futbol to Baseball to F1 to the Olympic gymnastics team about to compete in Rio.

You can even use your wallpaper to remind you of what’s important in your life: your baby grandkids or your lovely wife. Whoever and whatever you hold dear, it can always be there in your thoughts and in your sight by setting personal photos as wallpapers.

See more wallpaper ideas

Icons

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This isn’t Apple: our app icons are not all rounded rectangles. But that doesn’t mean they have to be a mis-mash of conflicting design styles and guidelines. We have thousands of awesome icon packs out there to help us make some order out of the chaos and make our apps look better with our wallpapers and widgets. Whether you go in for uber-simplistic monotone icons or bright candy-colored packs, there’s an icon pack out there for everyone.

If you’re feeling especially brave, you can even go beyond the icons in packs and use any image you can image — or find on Google. Most common image types can be used as an app icon, but if it’s a PNG with a transparent background, it works best (since there won’t be a white/black box around your image). I’ve been making custom icons for my themes since before I even knew what root was; it’s easy, fun, and can be ever-so-slightly challenging finding/creating an icon that’ll fit just so with that perfect wallpaper you just found.

Read more: how to change icons on your phone without changing launchers

Widgets

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Widgets are ten kinds of amazing and you’re lucky your Android phone has them. You may have heard nasty rumors about widgets like they’ll suck your battery dry and tax your poor little phone’s memory. Years ago, we may have needed to worry about this more, but widgets (like the rest of Android) have come a long way since then. Widgets can play an important part on your home screen, offering up information and controls without having to open the main app. Instead of opening the Accuweather, you can just peek at the widget on your home screen and see that it’s 86 degrees and it’s gonna start raining in 33 minutes.

Widgets can be beautiful as well as functional. They can give you music controls and show off your album art in style. They can give you quick controls for your Hue lights without clashing with your dark wallpaper and icons. They’re awesome, and you should check them out.

Read more: my favorite widgets

Launchers

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When you’ve tested and reached the limits of your current launcher, there’s always new frontiers of possibility to explore with a new launcher. They’re easy to find, easy to try, and no, they won’t completely screw up your phone. If you don’t like the one you try, your old launcher is still there waiting for you. Launchers have a lot of good and downright useful features like backups, gesture shortcuts, folders that don’t look like complete crap and even prepackaged themes.

There’s a lot of launchers out there for you to test the waters with, and while many of us on the Android Central staff swear by Action Launcher, I have been and continue to be a Nova Launcher girl. Nova has the best backup mechanism, it’s got the most customizable folders (my dock is almost entirely made of folders), and it’s the best 25 cents I ever spent in Google Play, back during one of it’s birthday sales.

Here are our favorite launchers

Start small

Here’s the best part: you don’t have to do everything at once. Ease yourself in with some Awesome Icons before you go trying new launchers with sub-grid positioning and custom icon support. Maybe try a few widgets that’re already on your phone. Give a Muzei plugin a try to see what kind of wallpapers you like best on your phone before you start trying to build launcher themes around one. Import your current launcher’s layout into Nova Launcher and see how you like it before you go messing around with a lot of gesture controls and Kustom widgets.

18
Apr

Overhauling every town in ‘Skyrim’ took one dev four years


Skyrim came out in 2011 but earlier this month, a modder released Holds: The City Overhaul, an expansion that renovates every village and town in the game. Even among a mod community that refuses to let the game die, this addition was a Herculean task, taking the modder an average two hours a day over three years to finish. That’s a labor of love.


At 4GB, Holds is a big chunk of content — none of which adds to the game’s storyline. It’s just more stuff, like new architecture, outfits and named characters to enrich the walking-through-town experience. Holds’ creator even wrote completely new in-game books, adding to Skyrim lore.

There’s a modelmaker’s precision in Holds: there are new villages, but they are carefully placed far apart to preserve the original Skyrim’s sparse wilderness. This respect for “The Skyrim Experience” shows why its vibrant community of tinkerers has kept creating more than four years after the game was released, even without getting paid to do it.

Via: Polygon

Source: Nexus Mods

18
Apr

EU close to slapping Google with antitrust charges over Android


The European Union’s probe into a possible antitrust case against Google over Android might just lead to full-fledged legal action. Reuters sources claim that the European Commission is getting ready to charge Google for allegedly offering unfair deals to Android phone makers in order to keep its own services on top. While it’s not clear just when those charges might drop, the EU is already indicating its main point of contention. It’s not so much concerned about Google’s demands for app bundles (if you want one Google service, you have to include a bunch more) as it is the exclusive contracts that Google supposedly makes with phone brands to get those bundles in place. These hurt companies’ ability to choose which apps they want to load, according to regulators.

For its part, Google has denied pushing companies into exclusive contracts, and it’s hoping that talks will avoid a legal battle. With that said, the odds aren’t exactly in its favor. European countries haven’t been kind to Google, and regularly accuse it of breaking rules. Also, Russia just recently won a victory over a similar Android bundling dispute — while the EU isn’t about to use Russian decisions as legal precedent, that shows that it’s at least possible for Google to lose an antitrust case like this. The US’ Federal Trade Commission investigation doesn’t help, either. Google may have to reach a compromise if it wants to avoid forced changes in behavior and the stiff fines to match.

Source: Reuters

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