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Google’s ‘new and improved’ Contributor program is accepting early sign-ups

Welcome back, Contributor. Sort of.

As Google promised when the original Contributor program was entirely erased earlier this month, a replacement is on the way. There aren’t many details yet, and it’s not clear if this will look anything like the original service that killed ads in exchange for a monthly fee from users, but at least we know it’s not dead forever right?


Instead of a dead page, Google’s Contributor site now includes a link to a Google Form where you can ask to be a part of early trials for the “new and improved” Contributor. Amazingly, the URL for this sign up page includes the words “sign up disabled” but the link on the page clearly works. No one outside of Mountain View knows what that means yet, but as long as the core idea remains there’s a good chance this will be perfect for those who can’t stand ads but also want to support the sites they love.

Go forth and sign up for that early access, and be sure to drop us a line if you get to try anything cool before we do!


Google wants all Chromebooks to charge via USB-C, and it’s almost there

USB-C is coming to more Chromebooks with Google’s help.

Google is working with its partners to standardize charging across the entire Chromebook lineup of laptops, 2-in-1s and, eventually, tablets, according to the company.

In a blog post, the company said that it is listening to feedback from educators that despite the unified software experience, investing in Chromebooks from different manufacturers often comes with a set of charging challenges, as many laptops have proprietary charging ports and chargers that cannot be shared between students. “Going forward, all Chromebooks will have standard super-fast USB-C charging, so one Chromebook cart can charge any device quickly,” the company said in response to the feedback.


Google aims to standardize the entire Chromebook lineup to USB-C charging.

Android Central has now confirmed with Google that the company aims to standardize the entire Chromebook lineup — not just for the education market— to USB-C charging, though a timeline was not specified. While Google says “the majority” of Chromebooks launching this year will be USB-C powered, it’s likely that, like Android devices, the market will naturally move in that direction.

This is mainly thanks to the burgeoning USB-PD (Power Delivery) standard, which allows high-powered devices like laptops and tablets to be charged quickly and reliably using the USB-C standard. Google’s Pixel phones are two of the first to take advantage of USB-PD, but Google is actively pushing more companies to eschew proprietary fast charging methods like VOOC and Quick Charge, which can pose safety risks with the wrong adapters or cables.

The best Chromebooks you can buy

Google launched two new education-focused Chromebooks this week, the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 and Asus Chromebook C213, both of which will go on sale in the spring. The Acer has a Wacom overlay on the touch screen to support stylus input, and both are rugged, with 360-hinges for placement in tablet mode.

Tablets are something that Chrome OS fans can look forward to, as well. Google says that “with new apps, stylus and touch capabilities, we expect our partners will continue to build an even wider variety of Chromebooks in the future, including detachables and tablets.”



  • The best Chromebooks
  • Should you buy a Chromebook?
  • Google Play is coming to Chromebooks
  • Acer Chromebook 14 review
  • Join our Chromebook forums


How to produce beautiful, artistic photos on Android

Here’s how to edit photos when you’re on the road with just your smartphone (or tablet!).


Going somewhere? Packing is tough enough. The last thing you want to do is have to worry about whether you have all the proper hardware to produce well composed, vibrant photography for sharing online. When I travel, I like to reflect on the photos I’ve snapped every few days. It’s my way of appreciating the fact that we live on such a beautiful planet, but I don’t want to have to bust out my laptop to do this.

Enter your smartphone (or tablet!). With displays becoming higher resolution and better able to reproduce colors than your standard wide-screen monitor, there’s really no reason to carry all that hardware with you just to put out a pretty photo. With a couple of adapters and helpful applications, you can edit your photos just as easily on the go.

Figure out your methodology

First thing’s first: how will you shoot your masterpieces? For my vacation in New Zealand, I brought two smartphones: the Galaxy S7 Edge and the Pixel XL. That was really all I needed! Sometimes, I’ll bring my trust little entry-level DSLR or borrow my husband’s professional-grade kit. Regardless of what you have in tow, you’ll want to equip yourself with the proper arsenal of apps.

Shooting with a smartphone


You can shoot with any smartphone, really, but be realistic about the quality of the photos you’ll be posting if you’re shooting with something low-end to mid-range—like the Honor 6X, for instance. If you’re wielding a flagship like the aforementioned devices, however, you can tweak a couple of settings to get the most out of that fixed rear lens.

If you’re serious about adjusting the various hues of a photo, you’ll want to turn on RAW capture if your smartphone allows it. This means every photo will be shot as a DNG file rather than a JPEG. The advantage is that the file type retains more information than the compressed JPEG would, though you’ll have to actively process the photo yourself before it’s shareable with the Internet.

On a device like the Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung saves both the RAW and JPEG file to the device so that you can instantly share one photo and then edit it more thoroughly later on. For the purpose of this column, however, you’ll be able to edit those DNG files with the right Android app.

If you’re serious about adjusting the various hues of a photo, you’ll want to turn on RAW capture.

Be forewarned that on most devices, you’ll have to enter “Pro mode” before you can select the option to shoot in RAW. This requires that you manually adjust elements like the exposure and shutter speed before you can snap a picture. Also, consider investing in a worthy smartphone tripod if you’re headed this route. I did, and though it adds a bit of bulk to packing, landscape shots taken with my smartphone have never looked better.

Shooting with a DSLR


If you’re planning to edit photos taken with your DSLR, check to see if your phone or tablet supports USB On-The-Go (OTG) first by downloading this app. If it turns out your device is compatible, grab a USB-connected card reader from a place like Amazon. You can choose between adapters that are compatible with your device’s charging port or adapters that allow you to connect any USB flash drive or card reader.

Thanks to Android’s “sharing” mechanism, you can open those photos directly in the editing app of your choice.

We’ve also got a helpful primer on how to properly connect USB flash storage to your Android device. The same steps apply to a USB card reader, too. When you’re ready to edit, you can plug in the SD card into your phone and browse through the files like you would on a regular computer. And thanks to Android’s “sharing” mechanism, you can open those photos directly in the editing app of your choice.

See at Amazon

Choose your applications

Adobe Lightroom


If you’ve used the desktop app, you know that Adobe Lightroom is one of the primo titles for making your smartphone photos look their absolute best. Lightroom mobile boasts much of the same functionality as the full suite, including the ability to individually adjust hue, saturation, contrast, brightness, white balance, sharpness, and tone. There are also helpful filters to choose from if you’re feeling creative, including filters that correspond directly to the type of smartphone you’re shooting with.

Lightroom mobile also lets you sign in to your Adobe account, so if you’re already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can log in to access your archived albums and all the metadata. And if your smartphone doesn’t employ a “Pro mode,” Lightroom mobile comes with the ability to shoot DNG files baked into the camera mode.

Download Adobe Lightroom (Free)



You’re an Android user, so you’re already entrenched in the Google life. Stick with the family by downloading Snapseed, Google’s photo editing suite. The app comes with 25 different tools and filters, including a healing brush and HDR tuner. What’s more: Any time you apply a filter, you can tap an icon in the upper right-hand corner to toggle between the before and after. Snapseed also supports DNG files.

When you’re finished editing, you can easily share to any of your favorite social networks. For a little more flair, choose between the different frames or add a bit of context with a stylized text caption.

Download Snapseed (Free)



Pixlr claims it offers over 2 million combinations of free effects, overlays, and filters. I can’t personally confirm that, but I can say that, anecdotally, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by Pixlr precisely because of its breadth of features. In addition to the standard filters and adjustments, Pixlr lets you do things like create collages, layer multiple photos, and stylize your images. There’s also a favorites button in case you get into an editing groove and you don’t want to have to recall your steps each time.

When you’re finished editing, you can share externally or save the photo to your device at maximum resolution.

Download Pixlr (Free)

Accept the limitations

For those of you who are new to the concept of editing photos with your smartphone, be aware of the limitations. For one, you can only work on one image at a time, and you’re likely doing so with a sensitive setup — one wrong flick of the SD card adapter and every edit could disappear before you even have the chance to export. Transferring and editing RAW files also drains your battery, so if you’re in the editing process while in transit, for instance, be sure you’re tethered to a high capacity battery pack.

But you’re likely not reading this article if you’re a professional photographer because there’s nothing mentioned here that you don’t already know. Well, I’d ask you to please consider leaving a comment and letting us know of any other tips you might have for editing photos on the go!


UK retailers to start selling Huawei P8 Lite 2017 on Feb 1

Get your buying fingers ready, P8 Lite fans.


Huawei surprised quite a few people last year with the P8 Lite, an unlocked budget phone that felt like it should cost a lot more right until you used the software. While the frustrations with EMUI have very slowly dissipated as updates are released on other phones, it’s easy to ignore the occasional issue when the hardware is this nice at this price range.

The successor to this phone, cleverly dubbed P8 Lite 2017, is now expected to be released in the UK on February 1 with Nougat and EMUI 5.0 on board. The best part of this news, as with its predecessor, is the price. Huawei is selling this phone for only £185.

For those keeping score at home, £185 gets you a Kirin 655 processor with 3GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage with a microSD slot, a 3,000mAh battery, fingerprint reader, and a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display. It’s more than a little impressive on paper at that price, and the 12MP rear camera is expected to deliver an improved experience over the decent quality of P8 Lite photos.

You can expect to find the P8 Lite 2017 in Vodaphone stores and on PAYG for £185 and contract from £16 per month.


Save 15% on any accessory or case from Otterbox right now!

Right now you can save 15% on any single item at Otterbox with coupon MN15OFFOB, making it even more affordable to add some great protection to your phone or tablet. Otterbox has been around for a few years and is well-known for its protective cases for phones like the Google Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy S7, and many others. Recently the company started offering some more stylish, thinner options, like the Symmetry line and even offers tempered glass screen protectors for select devices.


Whether you want to pick the colors and design your own protective case, or just want something a bit slimmer with some style, there is likely a case to meet the design you have in mind. You can also find a number of different chargers, armbands, and more. This coupon is only good for a single item, so be sure to pick the one you want and use code MN15OFFOB to save 15% on the purchase. Which case will you be picking up? Let us know in the comments!

See at Otterbox


Top 9 things to know about the NVIDIA Shield Android TV


The Shield is the most exciting box in the Android TV space, and there’s a lot to learn about it.

Before NVIDIA got into the Android TV game back in 2015 the market was lacking a true top-of-the-line offering. Now in 2017, the second generation box is still leading the pack as the go-to set top box if you want the absolute best the Android TV platform has to offer. With powerful internals, great peripherals and big time gaming chops, it can be the choice for so many people who are willing to spend the $199 for one.

We have nine things you should know about the Shield Android TV, whether you’re still thinking about picking one up or already have it at home.

It’s made for 4K and HDR video


Just about every set top box has a model that can handle 4K, but you don’t always have 4K resolution and HDR like the Shield Android TV offers. If you have a 4K HDR TV then this will be one of the boxes on your short list — the specs inside can handle silky smooth video even with the latest standards, but just as importantly it also offers 4K HDR content from Netflix and Amazon Video.

Sure you’ll still watch a majority of things in 1080p or in 4K without HDR, but knowing that the Shield Android TV is ready to go for anything new that comes is great. And considering how well NVIDIA has supported its original Shield Android TV even after its predecessor arrived, you shouldn’t have any issue using this for a long while.

You can use any USB or Bluetooth peripheral

When you buy a Shield Android TV you’re not just stuck with what’s included in the box — dual USB 3.0 ports on the back and Bluetooth inside let you expand it in many ways. When it comes to adding extra peripherals to the box, if it has a USB-A plug then you can pretty much count on it working. Whether that’s a keyboard and a mouse, a USB flash or hard drive, gaming joystick or web cam — plug it in and it’ll play nice.

That also extends to Bluetooth, where you can pair a set of headphones or your own game controller even if it isn’t from NVIDIA. Of course the app or game you intend to use with it will need to support it, but knowing that you can extend your system with other standard peripherals is great.

Old Shield Wireless Controllers work just fine


The newly redesigned Shield Controller is a big step forward from the original, but it’s important to know that if you already have older version of the controller they’ll work just fine as well. There are differences in the button layouts and overall feel, but everything will interact with the system (and more importantly, games) just how you expect.

If you connect your old Shield Wireless Controller it’ll likely update your controller’s firmware (which will happen automatically) so it can interact fully with the Shield Android TV, but after that you’ll be loading up some great multiplayer gaming.

The new Shield Remote isn’t rechargeable


NVIDIA redesigned its Shield Remote and Shield Controller, making overall changes for the better on both peripherals. The new Shield Remote is included with the box, whereas it used to be a $50 add-on, but it also made a big change to how it’s powered. Rather than being recharged over Micro-USB like the controller, the remote is powered by two coin cell batteries that offer one year of battery life.

Assuming you keep the Shield Android TV for over a year, or use the remote a ton, you can swap out the batteries — but with typical use NVIDIA says you won’t have to worry about that more than once every 12 months. That’s undeniably a better situation than having to plug in your remote every week or two, and it means you aren’t going to constantly pick up your remote only to find out it’s died sitting on the table.

There are now notable differences in the Shield Pro


With the newly redesigned Shield Android TV, NVIDIA has kept around the higher-end “Pro” model for those who need a little more from their set top box and are willing to shell out an extra $100 for it. The Shield Pro has the same larger form factor as the first-gen box (meaning it also has nicer external hardware, for what it’s worth), and that means it has also retained a few features: a 500GB hard drive, an SD card slot and an IR receiver for use with universal remotes.

For those who plan to use their Shield Android TV for lots of local media storage or have a dependency on an IR-based universal remote, that Shield Pro may seem like a great deal for an extra $100. Chances are most people will be better off with the standard $199 base model, though — weigh the options before making a buying choice.

Adoptable storage may be in your future


If all you’re looking to get out of the higher-end Shield Pro is more storage, you may be better off saving your $100 to just buy an external drive for the standard Shield Android TV. Even though it no longer has an SD card slot, the Shield can still accept USB drives to vastly expand its 16GB of internal storage.

That means you can plug in an external hard drive if you want lots of storage, but most people will probably manage with just plugging in a USB flash drive. Any flash drive that’s USB 3.0 will work, but we have a handful that we recommend for the best experience. For less than $50 you could add 128GB to your Shield Android TV — that’s a great feature.

Android TV has come a long way, but still needs some help


Android TV has gained lots of polish, small features and dramatically more apps since being introduced at Google I/O 2014, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The interface is pretty slick, intuitive and even a bit customizable, but the app experience still isn’t great across the board.

Thankfully you’ll now find most of the big names like Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, ESPN, Fox Sports Go, Sling TV, Plex and Kodi. But the apps aren’t all of the high quality you may expect from a set top box, and they still all live in their own silos to be opened one at a time and used independently with their own interfaces and quirks. There’s still a bit of a learning curve, for sure.

The ability to use Google Cast definitely helps fill in any gaps you may have, though, with the Cast experience from mobile apps on your phone or tablet sometimes being smoother and simpler than using a native Android TV app. We recommend to always give the local Android TV apps a try first, but just remember that Casting from your phone may be an option as well.

This is THE set top box for gaming


NVIDIA does its best to close the gaming gap on Android TV with three different plans of attack. The first is a robust (and growing) set of NVIDIA-exclusive native Android titles, typically ports of older well-known games that used to require a big and bulky console to play. They’re designed to work with the Shield Controller, and run great on the box’s hardware.

NVIDIA’s three-pronged gaming approach makes a compelling offering.

The next is GeForce Now, which is an innovative system that lets you stream big-name titles from an NVIDIA server directly to your Shield Android TV. Assuming you have enough bandwidth (not always a given), you can play games in 1080p 60 fps with great responsiveness. It costs just $7.99 per month and includes over 60 titles, and there are additional brand new games for sale as well.

The final pillar of the gaming story is GameStream, which requires an NVIDIA-powered gaming PC on your local network. With some configuration, you can stream hundreds of the latest games from your home PC to the Shield Android TV.

NVIDIA has a complete list of the games available across all three platforms right here.

Once you have GeForce Now and GameStream configured it’s a near-seamless experience no matter where your games are coming from, and they’re all listed together in your gaming library. The bottom line here is that this is the set top box to get if you’re going to be gaming — the others just don’t compare.

You can tweak the green LEDs


This is perhaps the smallest of the tips here, but it needs said because you probably wouldn’t go looking for it yourself. You may notice when you wake up your Shield Android TV that the slice of angular green plastic on the top of the box lights up — and it turns out you can change the intensity of that light as well!

Head into your Settings, System, LED Brightness and set it between high, medium, low and off. The new Shield Android TV still has some green to it even when you have the LEDs set to “off” because the plastic itself is tinted, but when you turn the lights off it isn’t distracting in the way that the “high” setting can be in a dark room.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

  • Read our Shield Android TV review
  • The latest Shield Android TV news
  • Shield vs. Shield Pro: Which should I buy?
  • Join the forum discussion
  • Complete Shield Android TV specs



T-Mobile offering free Hulu for a year to some disgruntled DirecTV Now users

T-Mobile will never stop taking shots at its competitors.

Late last year T-Mobile took a swing at AT&T to offer a free year of the DirecTV Now streaming service for those who switched carriers … but unfortunately, DirecTV Now has had a pretty rough start loaded with service interruptions and bugs. To make amends, T-Mobile is now offering a year of Hulu for everyone that previously look it up on the DirecTV Now deal in 2016.


If you switched to T-Mobile late last year to get this deal, T-Mobile will send you a notification to get the free Hulu subscription. Simple as that.

Every former AT&T customer who signed up for a free year of DIRECTV NOW will receive a notification from T-Mobile in the coming weeks with a unique code good for a free year of Hulu Limited Commercials service.

An added bonus is that through T-Mobile’s Binge On service, Hulu streaming doesn’t count against your data cap. For a double bonus, T-Mobile is letting you keep the DirecTV Now subscription as well just in case it gets its act together and makes things work later in 2017.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joins Starbucks’ board of directors

Starbucks has long had a fondness for technology in its coffee shops, and it’s now reflecting that philosophy in its directors. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just joined the Starbucks board, giving the restaurant chain a major voice from the technology industry. While it’s not clear just what got Nadella on to the board (besides his clout in Seattle-area business), he doesn’t mince words about his potential contribution — he believes his “years of experience” in tech will play an important role.

Notably, Nadella hasn’t been quick to join other companies’ boards. His only other major board membership is at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, which he joined in 2016.

Just how this will influence Starbucks’ strategy isn’t clear. Nadella is a board member, not an executive, so he won’t be directly calling the shots. However, board memberships have a habit of influencing what companies do — Apple’s Tim Cook has been on Nike’s board since 2005, remember. While you probably aren’t about to order a grande latte with your HoloLens any time soon, it won’t be surprising if Nadella nudges Starbucks toward more extensive uses of tech.

Source: Starbucks


Agriculture Department lifts USDA gag order after public outcry

That didn’t last long. Less than a day after the US Department of Agriculture issued an internal memo dictating that its main research division “not release any public-facing documents” the agency has rescinded that order, according to emails obtained by Buzzfeed.

Under the rule, those public-facing documents would have included “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.” This gag order operated in the same vein as Trump’s attempts to silence the EPA, National Park Service and Department of Transportation and Department of Health and Human Services. However, after a day of strident and vocal backlash against the rule from both the scientific community and American public, the department relented.

As Chavonda Jacobs-Young, administrator the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), told Buzzfeed the order — which was originally written by Sharon Drumm, chief of staff at ARS — should never have been sent in the first place because it was not properly vetted by USDA leadership. “The ARS guidance was not reviewed by me,” Michael Young, the acting deputy administrator of USDA, told the Washington Post. “I would not have put that kind of guidance out.”

As such the gag order is to be “immediately rescinded” and the ARS will follow the USDA’s existing rule to get approval from USDA leadership before answering questions “related to legislation, budgets, policy issues and regulation.”

Source: Buzzfeed


Facebook no longer personalizes trending news topics

Facebook vowed to alter how it handles its Trending topics feature as part of its bid to curb fake news and accusations of bias, and you’re seeing two major changes on that front today. To start, it’s adding headlines and sources next to those topics. You’ll now have context as to why a subject is blowing up without having to click a thing. However, the bigger shift is in how Facebook decides what you see — it’s no longer personalizing stories to match your interests.

From now on, everyone in a given region will see the same topics. This is to make sure you “don’t miss important topics” that wouldn’t otherwise show up in your News Feed, Facebook says. And rather than base trends around activity for a specific article, it’s looking at how many articles are discussing the same subject. You should see hot topics surface quicker, and encounter a “broader range” of news than you saw before.

The move should help Facebook expand its Trending section to more countries, since it helps take human editors out of the equation and can shift the attention to local publishers. However, it should also address concerns that Trending can be an echo chamber that reinforces your existing views. Whatever shows up will reflect what’s popular for the larger Facebook community, not just within your social circle. This will likely downplay interesting niche stories that previously got attention, but it might just help expand your horizons.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Facebook Newsroom

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