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29
Dec

Fashionable Touchscreen Gloves: Text With Style and Warmth


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Keep in touch with your phone, even when it’s cold outside.

If you hail from colder climes, then you likely can’t text outside from October until March — at least, not without some protection. Touchscreen gloves are a great way to keep using your phone outside, and function oftentimes trumps fashion in that market. But we’ve found some stellar style options that’ll stand out and make your hands feel like they won the lottery.

If you’re more into function than form, then check out our roundup of the best touchscreen gloves.

  • Men’s gloves
  • Women’s gloves

Men’s

Burberry check wool and leather

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These checkered wool gloves from Burberry are the perfect way to keep your hands warm, while remaining fashionable and still able to text. They’re sort of like driving gloves, with their flared cuff and sheep leather palms. They’re also lined with 100% cashmere, for the utmost in luxury.

They come in either charcoal or navy.

See at Burberry

Barney’s New York Tech-Smart suede gloves

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These fine suede gloves from Barney’s come in black, blue, and “open”, which is a dark, rich brown (my favorite).

They have three top-stitched, raised seams on the back to add an accent and design to the 100% real leather suede. The insides are lined with soft and warm cashmere.

See at Barney’s New York

Gizelle Renee Theodore Gentlemen’s Wooly Glove

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If the leather or suede looks don’t tickle your fancy, then check out these wool gloves by Gizelle Renee. They have a contrast leather trim, which stands out from the sandy colored wool and adds an accent of sophistication.

The bespoke velcro fastener adds a standout accent as well, and the wrist features elastic, so you can tighten it as much as you like and still feel like you can move your wrists around.

See at Gizelle Renee

Dents Shaftesbury Touch Classic cashmere-lined leather gloves

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If you’re looking for the classic black leather glove, but you still want touchscreen capabilities, then the Shaftesbury gloves from Dents of UK are the way to go. They feature the raised stitching on the back, classic cuff, and are, of course, lined with cashmere.

See at Amazon

Mujjo Double Layer touchscreen gloves

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Mujjo’s Double Layer gloves are the perfect marriage of function and fashion, made from durable wool, with rubber grips on the palms, a magnetic snap closure, and leather trim around the cuff.

If you live in colder climes (CANADA), but you still need to use your phone outside, then check out Mujjo’s gloves and keep your fingers warm and your form fashionable.

See at Amazon

Women’s

Echo Touch Long Knit leather glove

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Want to look like a fair maiden who might ride side saddle on a horse and then slap someone in the face for thinking they’re a damsel in distress? These are the gloves for you!

The Echo Touch gloves are a gorgeous blend of wool and sheepskin leather, with a cozy design that extends up the forearms ensuring warmth and that no snow gets in there (isn’t that the worst?). The lace on the back is a lovely, simple accent and the added bonus of a touchscreen fingertip means you can keep warm and snap those Instas all day long.

See at Echo New York

UGG Classic Leather Smart Glove

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Love the feeling of UGGs on your feet? Wouldn’t it be great if hands were feet? OF COURSE NOT; WHAT ARE YOU, INSANE? But wouldn’t it be awesome if that comfort and warmth could somehow be molded to fit your hands in the form of, say, a glove?

Well it can and is! The Classic Leather Smart Glove from UGG has the classic black leather glove look with a black rabbit cuff that adds a bit of flair and some assurance that snow won’t sneak its way and and freeze your grabbers.

Comes in black, brown, chestnut and “Stormy Grey”. Make sure you select the right size before checking out!

See at UGG

Marc by Marc Jacobs Rory Who

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If you love brand name, but want to have a bit of fun and stand out in the crowd, then the Rory Who gloves from the Spongebob tattoo-clad Marc Jacobs are a colorful way to stay warm and techy.

These gloves are red, yellow, blue, and white, with a fun striped pattern, made from 100% Merino wool with acrylic touchscreen-compatible fingertips.

See at Amazon

Glove.ly Metallic Leather touch screen gloves

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Glove.ly makes wonderful touchscreen gloves, and the metallic leather gloves are a shiny way to text in style. You have your choice of gold or silver, and you’re not limited to one or two fingertips — you can use your whole hand on your touchscreen, thanks to what Glove.ly calls “Invisitouch” napa leather.

See at Glove.ly

Ralph Lauren Polo touch screen gloves

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If it’s good enough for Rachel, then it’s certainly good enough for all of us. These cashmere gloves from Ralph Lauren are beautifully knit and extended past the wrist for extra warmth.

If you don’t think these are luxurious enough, just check out the colors they come in: Camel Melange, Belmont Purple Heather, Heritage Cream, and Montauk Purple.

They’re all pretty and they’re all touchscreen-compatible, so check it out.

See at Ralph Lauren

Your picks?

What’s your favorite high-fashion touchscreen glove? Let us know in the comments below!

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29
Dec

Common Google Pixel problems and how to fix them


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Pixel problems? Here are the most common problems and how to fix them.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for Google’s nascent hardware division. The company’s latest products are all smartphone adjacent — a smart speaker, a smart router, a smart VR headset — but none have overshadowed the smart… phone. The Pixels are two phones that, among these parts and around the internet, have garnered widely divisive receptions, some hailing them as the best phones you can buy today, while others dismissing them outright as iPhone clones and, worse, overpriced wastes of money. Of course, like every story based on extremes, the reality is somewhere in the middle.

But even we, who have been leaning towards the side praising the Pixel, cannot ignore the seemingly-constant barrage of news relating to bugs in the proverbial machine. From LTE problems to boot loops to audio distortion to battery shutdowns, the Pixel has generated a steady stream of complaints since almost day one, and it seems that with each update, each bug fix, a new problem emerges.

Note: This article was originally published in December 2016 and will be updated frequently. Check back soon!

What is the actual problem?

Like every story based on extremes, the reality is somewhere in the middle.

We don’t know. The interoperability of hardware and software is very complicated, and even though it now has much greater control over both, Google is still unable to check for every conflict before it ships.

The important thing to know is that not everyone is experiencing problems. The issues with the Pixel appear to be isolated and not endemic of the entire product lineup. This is not some Galaxy Note 7 scale issue that will require a recall.

The second thing to know is that Google appears to be actively researching each problem, and has already fixed one of the more severe issues with a recent update.

Let’s go through each one to see where we stand.

Band 4 LTE issues

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Early on, it became apparent that the Pixel was having trouble connecting to LTE networks that relied on Band 4 (AWS) in certain countries, specifically Canada, Chile, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Ecuador and others in the region. The phone, though compatible with Band 4 LTE, was staying on HSPA+.

That changed when Google issued the Android 7.1.1 update in early December, with many people finding their LTE connections upon booting up. The issue is that some people are still having issues with LTE, so the update doesn’t appear to have fixed the update completely.

Some people are finding that flashing radios from different regions elicits success, but like many of the Pixel’s issues there doesn’t seem to be a particular rhyme nor reason to say the issue has been solved and the case closed.

  • Best fix: Upgrade your software
  • Status: Partially solved, ongoing

Audio distortion issues

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Audio distortion issues continue to be one of the most prevalent problems with the Pixel, largely because it is easy to reproduce. You either have the problem or you don’t.

The issue stems from using particular apps, or playing back movies and music at high volumes; anything above a certain point — usually 80% to maximum — causes the audio to clip.

Like the above LTE issue, it appears to be a combination of hardware and software, since not all Pixel owners (myself included) have had the problem. The main difference is that no software fix has been issued just yet, so it’s not clear whether the issue can be resolved with a mere software patch.

  • Best fix: Replace your Pixel
  • Status: Ongoing

Boot loops

Android phones falling into boot loops are not uncommon, and some manufacturers (ahem, LG) seem to have higher rates than others.

But shortly after the Pixel was released, and timed more frequently with monthly security updates, people began reporting instances where the phone would fall into an endless boot loop — failing to start up and rebooting when the process failed — forcing a factory reset through the Recovery menu.

On Google’s product forums, half a dozen threads with myriad entries each tell the story of frustration, especially since many of the Pixel and Pixel XL users were forced to perform hard resets, losing data in the process. Google’s official word is to seek individual service through the Pixel’s 24/7 customer support feature, but there are no permanent solutions just yet. At the same time, boot loops are not uncommon in the Nexus family, and more recently the Nexus 6P began suffering the same sordid fate after it, too, was updated to Nougat.

  • Best fix: Factory reset and, failing that, replace your Pixel
  • Status: Ongoing

Pixel shutting off at close to 40% battery

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This is a relatively recent occurrence, but mirrors what people have been seeing on the Nexus 6P for the past few weeks. Likely exacerbated by the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, the issue, according to Reddit user bal00, has less to do with software than with the state of batteries themselves.

If you’ve got a battery with a high internal resistance and a power-hungry load like the camera demanding a lot of current, other devices like the processor will see their supply voltage drop, and if it drops low enough, the phone will shut off. That’s what’s going on when a phone turns off with 40% battery left. There’s plenty of water in the tank, but all the build-up inside the valve restricts the flow so much that the pressure takes a nosedive.

The strange part is that unlike the Nexus 6P, which has been in the market for over a year, the Pixel is new, as are the batteries inside them. To sustain such damage so the “pressure takes a nosedive” is not common in a phone under three months on the market.

  • Best fix: Replace your Pixel
  • Status: Ongoing

Other minor issues: Bluetooth, microphones

Other Pixel owners report Bluetooth issues, some of which were resolved with the update to Android 7.1.1, as well as failing microphones and other random issues.

None of these are common enough to be called endemic, but they’re certainly something to look out for.

  • Best fix(es): Wait for software update
  • Status: Annoying

So what can you do?

First thing’s first: Google’s Pixel is, like all other phones, not perfect. That its hardware and software are overseen by Google doesn’t preclude it from having problems. Despite the numerous issues noted above, the Pixel is not disproportionately problematic compared to other Android phones.

You have three options if you have a severe issue with your Pixel:

  • Seek out counsel from Google through the Pixel Support feature: Google may be able to walk you through a temporary or permanent fix.
  • Update or your revert your software: The issue(s) you’re experiencing are likely software-based and an update could be the answer.
  • Replace your phone: If nothing works, or you’re stuck in a permanent boot loop and a restore doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, seek a replacement from Google or your carrier. The Pixel is still under warranty, and unless you dunked it in water or threw it onto cement, you shouldn’t have an issue getting a new one.

What issues are you facing?

Are you facing issues with your Pixel? If so, any from the list above? If not, has it been flawless or still prone to derping every once in a while?

The good news is that Google will likely fix the majority of the Pixel’s major issues with software updates, and faster than usual given its ability to push out updates directly.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
  • Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
  • Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
  • Pixel + Pixel XL specs
  • Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Join the discussion in the forums!

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29
Dec

The Best gadgets for dog owners: The best tech for your pooch


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The right gadgets can help you to keep an eye on your dog, no matter where you may be!

Technology has made life easier for everyone in plenty of small ways, but you may not have considered how it could help you in taking care of your pet. From remotely feeding your dog when you have an early meeting at work, to keeping an eye on them with cameras, to tracking their whereabouts with GPS, there are plenty of awesome gadgets that can make life easier on you and Buddy both. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 5 best gadgets for Dog owners.

Furbo

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While many pet owners wish they could bring their dogs with them everywhere, that isn’t always quite feasible. Furbo gives you access to being able to see your dog, talk to it, listen to it, and even toss it treats, all by using an app on your phone. This means that whether you need to check on your dog from work, or when you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll always know what the rascal is up to.

Furbo is a smart camera with plenty of features that hooks into your home wifi. Once it’s connected, all you need to do is download the app onto your phone and you’ll be good to go. While it does have a slightly hefty price tag, making sure your dog stays out of trouble when you’re at work is probably worth it.

See at Amazon

Whistle

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While pet owners might trust their dogs not to run amok, sometimes accidents happen. Your retriever slips her leash because a squirrel takes off, or your husky hops the fence to take himself for a walk. While a microchip can ensure you find your pet if it’s picked up, the Whistle GPS collar attachment adds a layer of security.

You can program alerts to let you know any time your dog escapes your designated home zone, check on your dog’s activity level, and it’s made waterproof and durable to take anything your dog puts it through. The Whistle device attaches to your dog’s collar, and uses GPS monitoring to make sure you can always find your pooch when they get away from you.

See at Amazon

Nest Camera

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Some dogs don’t do well by themselves, or are prone to causing trouble when nobody is at home. If your puppy needs a eye on them while you’re at work, then the Nest camera may be your best bet. Using the Nest camera you can make sure that you know if your dog manages to escape their crate, or if they’re trying to break into your office.

With 24/7 streaming and recording, you can see everything as it happens, or look over what you’ve missed. This means you’ll never wonder how the dog escaped their confines to tear apart the living room again. With multiple cameras you can even make sure that you have eyes on the entire house, even if you’re across the country.

See at Amazon

Petnet

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Sometimes our schedules don’t quite match up with when you need to be home to feed your dog. Rather than coming home to trash all over the floor, you can employ the Petnet SmartFeeder. This feeder will let you feed your dog even if you get stuck in gridlock traffic, or need to stay at work late to finish up some paperwork.

Using the app on your phone you can precisely measure out meal portions, automate feeding times, and even check on how nutritious your brand of dog food is. You can even cater to how much you feed your dog by inputting their age and activity level. This means that even if you aren’t home you can ensure that Fido never goes hungry.

See at Amazon

FitBark

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Not all dogs need a lot of activity, but those that do can be destructive in the house if they get bored. That’s just one of the reasons that keeping an eye on the activity level of your dog can be beneficial. With FitBark, you can easily keep an eye on your dog’s activity. This means knowing if your dog is a bit more lethargic than usual, or if Duke has been running laps through the house for the last three hours.

If you like to go for run’s with your dog, then you can connect FitBark to your Google Fit account to keep an eye on all of your dog’s information. Using the app, you can get stats on each dog that has a FitBark attachment, and get insights on your dog’s activity. This means setting goals for your dog’s health so that your best friend is always in the best shape possible.

See at Amazon

That’ll get your pooch’s tail wagging!

These are just a few of the fantastic gadgets available out there for dog owners. Did we cover one of your favorites, or is there a gadget great for dog owners that we missed this time? Be sure to pop into our comment section and let us know about it!

29
Dec

Wileyfox ditching Cyanogen for an “enhanced” Android experience


Wileyfox ditches Cyanogen for an “enhanced” Android experience.

We certainly hope you didn’t purchase a Wileyfox smartphone specially for Cyanogen, because that’s going extinct once the company seeds out its next software update.

In an email to Android Central, Wileyfox provided details on how it plans to proceed following the news of Cyanogen’s untimely demise. The company promised a smooth transition via an upcoming over-the-air update for the entire Wileyfox product range. Wileyfox promised a “purer,” “enhanced,” Android experience.

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The company continued with a recommendation for its existing users:

We strongly recommend that all current and future users accept the upcoming update request to ensure they are on-boarded for the future. This will include the ability to maintain the same experience as before and the added ability to partake in updates and upgrades to the software in the future.

We will continue to push this update to your device, and for new users we again recommend they download and install this update upon purchase.

Wileyfox added that once the transition has been successful, its first order of business will be bringing Android 7.0 Nougat to its entire device portfolio by the end of the first quarter next year.

More: Wileyfox Swift 2 hands-on

29
Dec

Google mobile search shows recipe suggestions when you look for food


In the past few years, Google has used its so-called “knowledge graph” to make search results far more useful than just a list of links — you can get lots of info on a variety of topics right in Google without having to click on any search results. The latest addition to Google search is something foodies should take note of. Now, when you search for food on mobile, you’ll see a carousel of recipes at the top of the results page.

Google also added some filters to those recipe results — right below the search bar are additional suggestions you can use to refine your results. Searching for “fried chicken” gave me the option to add “oven-fried,” “buttermilk,” and “southern fried” filters to narrow down the recipes. You can also tap “view all” to move out of the standard search page and see bigger, more detailed recipe cards that show a picture and quick preview of the recipe.

When you combine these recipes with the local food results and knowledge graph info that Google has already been serving up, the company is offering a whole lot of food info without having to tap into pesky websites. For whatever reason, though, this view isn’t yet live on the standard desktop version of Google search. That’ll probably change sooner or later — in the meantime, if you use your phone to look for recipes, this should make things a little bit easier.

Via: 9to5Google

29
Dec

Best iPad mini cases: Protect your 7.9-inch Apple tablet


Apple’s iPad mini is available in two models – the iPad mini 2 and the newer iPad mini 4 that was announced as the replacement for the iPad mini 3 in September 2015. The iPad mini 2 is the cheapest way to get your hands on an Apple tablet with prices starting at £239, while the higher-specced iPad mini 4 starts at £379.

There are of course the original iPad mini and the iPad mini 3 knocking about too but you can’t buy them new from Apple anymore. This feature however, is all about protecting your iPad mini, no matter what model you have or plan to buy.

The iPad mini 4 differs in size very slightly to the older models so some older cases won’t be compatible, and the same works for newer cases with regards to older iPad mini models.

  • Apple iPad mini 2 review
  • Apple iPad mini 4 review

The sleeve cases should be fine, but you’ll need to make sure any hard cases that snap on are designed for the iPad model you own or are buying. We have tried to make it as clear as possible in the captions under each case in our gallery, but double check to be sure.

  • Click here to see the best iPad mini cases we have found so far
29
Dec

Facebook names its favorite in-house hackathon projects


Facebook is ending 2016 by naming its favorite projects and products that came out of all the hackathons its offices worldwide hosted this year. One is a richer, more robust Safety Check: a team tweaked the feature (which was itself the product of a hackathon) to allow people to embed more context, pictures and calls to actions within notifications. Another team created sort of an extension for it that gave people a way to offer and look for resources such as food and water in emergency situations.

A hackathon in Seattle gave rise to instant verification for Android, which launched earlier this month. That feature verifies your number for apps and websites if it’s the same as the phone you’re using without having to wait for a verification code via SMS. There’s also another team in Seattle created a live-streaming experience within Messenger. The other entries in Facebook’s list are the Voyager transponder, created in an effort to make sure the world’s internet infrastructure can handle an increase in traffic going forward.

Finally, a team who participated at a hackathon in New York created a feature called “adaptive attachments,” which might give users a way to upload photos to a shared album, create crowdsourced videos and play multiplayer games simply by commenting on a post someday. Since hackathons produce so many great products (and potential features) for the social network, we’re pretty sure we’ll see more of them in 2017.

Source: Facebook

29
Dec

Joué’s MIDI controller adds tactile fun to music making


The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) arrived in the ’80s to help digital instruments communicate with each other. Nowadays, with much of the action on computers, a new breed of MIDI controllers have emerged. Many of today’s designs include built-in pressure sensitivity to provide a semblance of analog expression when played, but Joué is a bit different. It was developed to free digital music artists from the lockstep confines of keyboards, button rows, glowing displays and marching lights, while providing modular flexibility and, above all, fun.

The name Joué, translated from French literally means “play” and can be interpreted as “I play,” and the company would like you to approach the device with an open and creative mind. It’s a USB-powered pressure sensitive board that works with a variety of soft — and occasionally squishy — pads that are detected and uniquely identified through embedded RFID tags. You map portions of each pad to any MIDI-capable program like Ableton Live, Apple Logic, Garage Band or iPad apps to help bring your music to life. They’re swappable on the fly and the tactile interfaces offer an alternative to high-tech distractions. The device is currently on Kickstarter to help the company move from industrial prototype to final product, and as usual, early bird deals are available. You can buy a Joué board and starter pack of pads for just over $300, with the eventual retail price expected to be under $500.

Joué : First Look

This product joins the market alongside several other well-known controllers. The Ableton Push is a popular device with a glowing grid of pads and onboard controls that let you run a live set with minimal glances at a laptop. Another similar product is the LinnStrument by legendary gear maker Roger Linn. This has a wood exterior like the Joué, but maintains a backlit grid interface. Roli, which offers a series of soft touch keyboards called Seaboard, has the closest similarity to the Joué pads, but is stuck with a keyboard layout that requires some skill to play — unless Chopsticks is the apex of achievement for you.

As a MIDI controller, Joué — or more particularly, each RFID-tracked pad — needs to be mapped to certain control parameters. It supports an emerging software standard called Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE), which allows more expressive parameters for each sound. Still, software support for MPE is limited, including Logic and Bitwig among its short list. Joué also supports up to 10 points of multitouch, so people can max out the usefulness with all 10 digits.

Joué’s pads will initially be sold in groups along with the Joué board, beginning with the Control Pack and Play Pack — their differences being how each set is aimed to be used. You can map any pad unit to any sound function essentially, but if you’re working with subtle adjustments and tweaks rather than playing a keyboard sequence, for instance, you’d probably choose the Control Pack.

This includes a Rounds pad, which has four raised circles that act as a sort of knob action, an Area one for filter sweeps in both X and Y directions and Strips for various linear adjustments like volume or pitch bends. In addition there’s the Pad, which is a four-by-four layout of squares for tapping out samples or drum sounds and finally Bubbles, which is one of the most enjoyable tactile designs. It has a series of squishy domes that you can mash, press and bend at will — an interface that embodies the ethos behind the Joué.

The Play Pack is easier to describe, consisting of the same Pad insert, along with a Synth (keyboard) layout, a Fretboard (guitar) and a Scaler (similar to a piano, without the black keys). These are geared towards musicians looking to play melodies or simulate guitar play. Although the Fretboard has simulated strings and frets, they’re simply tactile representations. All the “bending” of a string is read by the pressure sensitive board underneath, which does a decent job of impersonating the real thing.

The unit I briefly demoed was an industrial prototype, so although it had a well-crafted wood and metal exterior, the flexible pads were a bit rougher looking than the final units will be. I’m told they’ll be made of silicone, and since they’re technologically minimal (just an embedded RFID) they’ll be affordable when sold as add-ons (possibly less than $10 a pad).

The Joué team has also started experimenting with unique interfaces that lean more towards fun than functionality. Imagine a fabric coated design or a single pad with a 3.5-inch wide mushy dome. Into head banging or need stress relief through music? Go for it. In my brief experience, mushing these pads is one of the most enjoyable parts about playing with the Joué. My inner child was pleased.

This isn’t the first product that CEO Pascal Joguet has released. His first company, JazzMutant launched a multi-touch controller over a decade ago called the Lemur. A quick cruise through its listing of clients includes artists like Bjork, Richard Devine, M.I.A., Daft Punk and Orbital to name a few. The design was forward-thinking, but Joguet wanted to bring back the fun of playing music without dealing with the imposing technical hurdles that more complicated (albeit high functioning) devices were burdened with.

Joué aims to be affordable, approachable and fun to play, either on its own or as an addition to your production kit. It’s a lighthearted interface that can be enjoyed without too much visual focus. You can give your eyes a break, push the laptop aside and let its tactile prompts inform your musical creation. As Joguet said, “I don’t even need to use my eyes to play, my finger is the eye.” You can support Joué on Kickstarter through the middle of January.

Final image courtesy of Joué

29
Dec

2016 was a hard year to be an Apple fan


Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s leadership will probably not look back fondly on 2016. iPhone sales declined for the first time, and Apple’s profits followed suit. There are still bright spots, like the company’s growing services business, and the company is still making insane amounts of money. Even so, the stalled growth has to be concerning to both the company and its investors.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to pity Apple. I’m here to commiserate with its fans, the ones who Apple shafted this year. Particularly those of us who waited all year long for a substantial update to the Mac lineup only to be offered a pair of intriguing but compromised new laptops. Or those of us who bought an iPhone 7 and can’t use the headphones included with it in our new MacBook Pro, or even those of us trying to figure out which iPad to buy.

Across the board, Apple has confusing product lineups with weird and unnecessary compromises. And if you believe the wailing of aggrieved fans across the internet, it seems like plenty of loyal Apple supporters might be contemplating life outside the company’s ecosystem. How did we get here?

Apple fans: 2016 Year in Review

The product that most exemplifies Apple’s difficulty in 2016 is the Mac. The Mac may only compose a small part of Apple’s overall business, but that doesn’t excuse the neglect it’s endured recently. For 10 full months, the only update was a processor refresh on the 12-inch MacBook. (OK, you can also buy it in pink now. Thanks, Apple.) The company’s main three machines — the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iMac — went untouched. That’s still the case for the iMac and MacBook Air; it’s hard to recommend that anyone buy them right now. And we all know what happened when the MacBook Pro was finally updated: A portal to the dongleverse was opened.

I’m not here to pity Apple. I’m here to commiserate with its fans, the ones who Apple shafted this year.

Yes, Apple had already released the 12-inch MacBook with just a single USB-C port. But that computer was designed with extreme portability in mind; it was a laptop inspired by the iPad. It’ll likely take the aging MacBook Air’s place in the lineup as the company’s entry-level Apple laptop. That was fine when the MacBook Pro and its many ports existed, but Apple has now made it clear it’s not interested in keeping any legacy I/O around, even for its “pro” customers. That’s an aggressive move, and one that has been met with widespread displeasure.

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In a vacuum, there are plenty of things to like about the new MacBook Pro. The screen is excellent, the reductions in size and weight are welcome improvements, performance and audio quality are both improved, and even the controversial Touch Bar has potential. Other things, such as the redesigned keyboard, are a matter of personal preference, not a definitive drawback. But reduced battery life, the loss of physical function keys and only one type of port mean that many of the professionals Apple is targeting will need to change their workflow.

And that’s not even mentioning the price increases: It’ll cost you at least $1,799 to get a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar. History suggests that prices of the new MacBook Pro will eventually drop as the old models are phased out, but there’s still some significant sticker shock here.

This confusing middle ground between old and new makes it hard to decide which MacBook Pro is the best for a given shopper. Is your $1,499 better spent on the previous-generation model or the new one? If you opt for the new model, you get a piddly two ports and no Touch Bar, while opting for last year’s computer gets you all the ports you could want but in a heavier package with an older processor and worse screen. My guess is that lots of people will decide not to make a purchase instead of being forced to compromise one way or another. The new entry-level MacBook Pro would be a great step up from the MacBook Air for a lot of users — but the $500 separating the two computers is a difficult gap to close.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that Apple could have silenced its critics by simply including a USB 3 port and not removing the SD reader. Space may be at a premium on this new device, but I’d be willing to bet that many potential buyers would be happy to give up two of the four USB-C ports in exchange for those legacy connections. But that wouldn’t be a “courageous” move now, would it? Hell, Apple could even throw us the smallest of bones by including a USB 3 to USB-C dongle in the box so users can charge their iPhones without any further hassle.

Speaking of the iPhone, let’s go over that headphone situation one more time. Putting aside Schiller’s ridiculous “courage” line, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if we can evolve beyond the headphone jack. No other port has been immune to the march of time, and Apple probably has the data to show that most iPhone buyers use the included headphones. In theory, switching to the included Lightning headphones wouldn’t be a big deal, and there’s a dongle in there if you have a nice pair you want to keep using. What’s the harm?

Just as with the MacBook Pro, the problem is making consumers change their routines without a clear benefit. Apple executives gave a few rare interviews about the headphone jack decision when the iPhone 7 first came out, but the rationale mostly came down to using the limited space inside the iPhone for more useful technology, such as water resistance, a bigger battery and better cameras. Those are indeed great features to add to the iPhone. But they’re also table stakes at this point. It’s easy to forget that before the Galaxy Note 7 started exploding, Samsung had closed basically all the hardware gaps between its offerings and the iPhone, which means these updates were necessary, not revolutionary. And without also presenting an improved headphone solution, it’s hard to not feel like something was lost in this move.

Adding insult to injury, Apple did come up with an improved wireless-headphone experience: AirPods are much simpler to use than your average Bluetooth headset. But the price and mediocre audio quality make them a tough sell, and Apple didn’t even manage to have the headphones out on time. They only just hit the Apple Store a few weeks ago, and they’ll be in short supply for a good long time. They should have been ready to go alongside the iPhone 7, but Apple’s latest handset has been on the market for nearly three months without its companion wireless earphones. That’s a major tactical blunder.

Many of Apple’s more fervent supporters have scoffed at the notion that Apple is floundering a bit. After all, the company’s bottom line grew for 15 years: It clearly knows how to build products that resonate. But there’s been a growing chorus of unhappy fans who say that Apple doesn’t have the same eye for detail as it used to. Some point to the goofy charging experiences for the new Apple Mouse and Pencil as design decisions that Steve Jobs never would have allowed.

For me, it’s this new world of dongles that I’d have to use to make a new MacBook Pro work the way I need it to. Something isn’t right when the MacBook Air, which hasn’t substantially changed in design for five years, is still better for my needs than the brand-new MacBook Pro. I’d happily open my wallet and pay $1,799 for that new computer if it had an SD slot and a full-sized USB port. Part of me feels like those are tiny things to quibble over when weighed against the improvements — I’m dying for a better display at this point — but we all have to draw the line somewhere.

For others, that line might be the missing headphone jack, the late AirPods, the lack of substantial Mac updates (the Mac Pro hasn’t been touched for three years), the confusing iPad lineup, the lackluster Apple Watch reception or any other chink in Apple’s armor. Apple fans were sold on the promise that “it just works.” When that stops being the case, it’s much easier to start looking at competitors like Microsoft and Google. And that won’t help Apple make 2017 a better year.

Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.

29
Dec

Duolingo’s clubs make language learning a competition


Duolingo debuted chat bots to help you learn a new language back in October, but now the company is looking to offer a bit more human interaction. Today, it introduced a new feature called Language Clubs so you can band together with friends and other users who are attempting to tackle another language. Think of it like how you compare accomplishments with your friends in fitness apps and you’ll get the idea.

Inside the Duolingo apps for Android and iOS, the company now offers users the option of joining a group where you’ll see a shared news feed that lists members’ accomplishments. There’s a weekly leaderboard as well, because bragging rights are always a good motivator. Language Clubs are available in 20 different languages just in time to offer some added incentive for you to keep that New Year’s resolution.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: App Store

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