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24
Feb

Adobe Comp CC makes mobile design simple and easy (Review)


Overview:

Adobe Comp CC is an editing and drafting program for exporting into other Adobe suite programs for easy, on the go project managing.

Developer: Adobe

Cost: Free

Impressions:

Adobe software is often used by professionals for graphic design and other media creation professions to great effect. Adobe has added most of their most popular software to the Play Store as mobile-optimized applications for on-the-go productivity. The newest member of the Adobe mobile suite is Comp CC, an all new app that eases the editing load on the go.

Comp CC is, essentially, a wire-frame and concept creation tool for exporting into other Adobe software for refinement. It has preconfigured templates for web, paper, and mobile layouts that you can edit and export to InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator as well as Adobe’s cloud where you can pull it down to any machine you wish.

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Compared to the offerings of other Adobe software, Comp CC is rather limited. You can choose a template or create your own, import images, add text and graphics, and do some minor manipulation of color and such. From there, you can export it or share it to your email or social media. That is pretty much all it does.

The idea behind Comp appears to be that it’s something to get you started on a project, lay out a plan while on the go without having to use draft paper or lose progress by starting over on your main editing machine. It’s almost like a draft program but lets you get real progress on what would eventually become a more complex design for a web page, magazine, business card or what have you.

In terms of the app itself, it works really well but I would recommend using a larger screen device like a tablet, I used it primarily on my Samsung Chromebook Plus which has a touch screen and stylus making it a dream to use. The experience on the phone felt rather cramped and it’s not the most ideal place unless you don’t have another choice. The user interface is clean and minimal, with only a few options available. It’s easy to use and straightforward, without being confusing at all which is a big plus.

Some negative points now, but they’re minor. The app seems rather pointless without at least one or two other adobe apps to compliment it, so it’ll be a hard sell for the average user who doesn’t do any graphic design or use Adobe at all. Also, the templates for Comp CC aren’t all that helpful, as they’re just blank pages sized and oriented to the selected format. I would have liked to see some more helpful guidelines or page layout tools to help you make your own pages faster, especially if you’re a novice like me.

Conclusion:

I really like Comp CC more than I thought I would. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and is a handy tool to draft projects on the go for the busy graphic designer or other professional. It’s clean and simple and even novices can get some use out of it. I’d recommend it for anyone who uses Adobe software regularly, or someone looking for a simple editing app for basic manipulation.

Download Adobe Comp CC on the Google Play Store

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24
Feb

You can now search your Google Drive directly from Google’s Android app


Why it matters to you

Android users can now find their Google Drive files with slightly less hassle than before.

Searching for your own information just got as easy as searching for others’ information. We’re talking about a new update to the Google app on Android devices. On Thursday, G Suite unveiled a new update that promises to make it “easier to find your Google Drive files wherever and whenever you need them.” All you have to do is head over to your handy Google app, type in a keyword, and tap the “In Apps” tab to check out any files in your Drive that contain that keyword. From there, you can open the file in its appropriate app.

While it doesn’t exactly save you all that much time (you’re basically replacing the Google Drive app with the standard Google app), it’s nice to know that you can quickly switch between surfing the web at large and surfing your Google Drive within a single application. That said, you’ll have to remember to click over to the In Apps tab — otherwise, you’ll just be sending your query through the internet search engine.

More: Make the most out of Google with this list of ‘OK, Google’ voice commands

It’s yet to be seen if a similar functionality will be making its way to iOS, but if the new feature proves popular, perhaps us iPhone owners can expect our own version of this new search functionality. Variations of the feature already exist online — for example, you can add a Chrome extension that allows you to search directly in Drive by simply typing the word “drive” before your search terms in your search bar.

Thursday was a busy day for G Suite, as it also made it possible to preview password-protected Microsoft Office documents, presentations, and spreadsheets in Drive. “Going forward, when you attempt to open one of these file types in Drive on the web, you’ll be prompted to enter the password and, upon doing so successfully, you’ll see a read-only preview of that document,” the team said in a blog post announcement.

For more information on other new features, check out the G Suite blog.

24
Feb

Can you hear me now? Researchers one step closer to reversing hearing loss


Why it matters to you

Researchers have figured out how to generate sound-sensing hair cells in large numbers, which could lead to a cure for acquired hearing loss.

Mom used to say, “Turn that music down or you’ll lose your hearing!” And for good reason. Humans are born with 30,000 sound-sensing hair cells, which die off over time due to loud noises, medications, and natural aging. The problem is, these cells don’t grow back. We only really get one chance to protect our hearing.

But a few years ago researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear managed to restore partial hearing in mice by converting a small number of inner ear cells into hair cells.

More: This music app uses a clever new technique to preserve (and improve) your hearing

Now, a team of researchers from Mass. Eye and Ear, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated that this technique can scale by increasing the number of regenerated hair cells from 200 to 11,500. The research shows promise for restoring hearing for those of us who ignored the adolescent warnings of our mothers. They published their findings this week in the journal Cell Reports.

“Acquired hearing loss occurs when hair cells are damaged or destroyed by loud noise or exposure to toxic chemicals,” Will McLean, first author of the study, told Digital Trends. “However, even after hair cells die, progenitor cells are still present in the tissue. From our work, we believe small molecules could be delivered directly to the inner ear to activate these native progenitor cells to divide and regenerate new sensory hair cells, restoring healthy tissue to the inner ear and ultimately restore hearing.”

In 2012, researchers discovered that some inner ear cells had properties similar to cells found in the intestines — namely, they both contain Lgr5, a protein that lets intestinal cells regenerate and replace the intestinal lining every eight days. They were able to transform these Lgr5 cells into new hair cells in mice, but only in small numbers.

In the recent study, researchers extracted the Lgr5 cells from the inner ears of mice, placed them in a petri dish, used drugs and growth factors to make them multiply, and then converted the Lgr5 cells into hair cells.

Having identified the cells of interest, the researchers now aim to develop specific drugs to treat acquired hearing loss. They plan to begin clinical trials within the next 18 months.

24
Feb

Video cameras could soon determine your heart rate from across the room


Why it matters to you

New heart rate software could make sports broadcasts more interesting, liven up action cam footage, or even prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.

Video cameras may be able to read your heart rate without any extra accessories as early as next year. Panasonic recently demonstrated Contacts Vital Sensing during a private show in Tokyo, a software that can estimate heart rate just by analyzing video from any camera — even a webcam.

The program analyzes the change in the way the skin reflects light. According to Nikkei, a Japan-based technology analysis company, blood absorbs light, but just how much light the blood reflects changes with heart rate.

More: Fitbit wearer’s heart rate drops after breakup

The software measures how that skin reflection changes and uses that data to estimate a heart rate. Panasonic didn’t say how accurate the software is at measuring heart rate, but said any visible skin, including a face, can be used to estimate heart rates.

The software could add a unique angle to sports broadcasting by estimating an athlete’s heart rate, but Panasonic is also looking into the possibility of using the program to determine if a driver is a about to fall asleep, as well as other commercial applications.

While the idea of monitoring a heart rate simply through a video may sound far-fetched, Panasonic isn’t the only company to take this same approach. Startup Oxehealth announced late last year a similar program that could measure heart rate from a video using subtle skin changes they called “microblushes” — and clinical studies showed the system was actually just as accurate as standard medical equipment.

Panasonic’s software could be available commercially as early as 2018 and in multiple different applications, the company said. While Panasonic’s first suggestion is sports broadcasting, action camera manufacturers are already working to integrate heart rate integration into their feeds, such as GoPro’s collaboration with Polar fitness trackers and the Garmin VIRB’s sensor based heart tracking. Unlike those options already on the market, however, the software could potentially do all that tracking without a physical sensor.

24
Feb

Report: U.S. Cellular will join the unlimited data party with its own plan … sorta


Why it matters to you

Thanks to competition, more carriers now offer unlimited data plans, but some have fine print.

February 2017 will be remembered for the revival of the unlimited data plan, and it looks as if U.S. Cellular will join the party with a plan of its own, reports Droid Life.

The regional carrier will reportedly revamp its data plan lineup under the new “Total Plans” banner. The revamped plans start at $40 per month for 2GB of high-speed data, while the $50 plan bumps the data bucket to 6GB. Finally, the Unlimited Total Plan includes “unlimited” data for $60 a month, though an Unlimited Plus option sits alongside it for $20 more per month.

The latter plan is there if you want “high definition” video resolution, which brings us to one of the Unlimited Total Plan’s quirks: you are capped at 480p if you opt for Unlimited Total Plan. Even then, Unlimited Plus Total Plan caps videos at 720p, whereas the 2GB and 6GB plans allow video streams at “full network speed.”

More: The best unlimited data plan: Verizon vs. T-Mobile vs. AT&T vs. Sprint

Even weirder, U.S. Cellular reportedly suggests that Unlimited Total Plan customers will have their data throttled to 2G speeds once they hit 22GB for the month. It seems as if network congestion will not be factored in when imposing the throttle, so once you hit that cap, you will need to wait until the next pay period to get back to higher speeds. At least these quirks allow Unlimited Total Plan to remain consistent with other carriers’ offerings, but we would not exactly call this “unlimited” in the truest sense.

Going back to the Total Plans’ prices, customers will reportedly get those prices if they sign up for Auto Pay. Even if you opt to not go for automatic payments, the prices looks to include activation fees, upgrade fees, monthly connection charges, and overage fees. Unlike T-Mobile’s One plan, Total Plans will charge customers for taxes, regulatory fees, and other subscriber services.

The last two things to keep in mind is that U.S. Cellular will not advertise the Unlimited Plus Total Plan and that plans with 6GB and up will include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada. The new Total Plans are expected to be announced sometime today. You can see how prices play out across all four plans below.

Lines
2GB
6GB
Unlimited
Unlimited Plus
Phone 1
$40
$50
$60
$80
Phone 2
$35
$45
$55
$75
Phone 3
$25
$35
$45
$65
Phones 4-10
$20
$30
$40
$60

24
Feb

AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors set to launch in second quarter of 2017


Why it matters to you

Competition between AMD and Intel is heating up, and these new details on the Ryzen line suggest that the processor market is only going to get more aggressive in 2017.

Earlier this week, AMD opened pre-orders on certain models of its hotly anticipated Ryzen processors — but the company has yet to spill any more information about the midrange and entry-level versions of the CPU. Now, information has leaked about the Ryzen 5 series, giving us a little more insight in what to expect from the components.

The midrange Ryzen 5 processors will apparently be made available in the second quarter of 2017, while the entry level Ryzen 3 series will launch in the second half of the year, according to a report from PC Perspective. These parts are priced to give PC builders plenty of options, a strategy that’s surely intended to draw attention away from Intel’s suite of CPUs.

The Ryzen 5 1600X will apparently retail for $259, while the Ryzen 5 1500 will come in at $229. These are pretty competitive prices, given the capabilities of the hardware.

More: Leaked roadmap shows AMD may release three classes of Ryzen desktop processors

The 1600X and the 1500 are equipped with six cores and twelve threads, with the former boasting support for AMD’s XFR (Extended Frequency Range) technology. Both processors are unlocked, and lend themselves to overclocking, which is sure to be appreciated by PC gamers looking for peak performance. AMD’s 1600X is set to go head to head with the Intel Core i5-7600K CPU, and the 1500 is being touted as a direct competitor to the i5-7500.

There’s also some new information regarding how AMD plans to construct its six-core processors. The company will disable one core from each of the component’s two four-core complexes, maintaining a balance and ensuring that the full 16MB L3 cache is enabled, according to a report from Forbes.

AMD certainly looks poised to give PC builders some compelling new options over the course of 2017. Expect to hear plenty more about the Ryzen 5 series over the coming months, as we draw nearer to the rumored second-quarter release date.

24
Feb

The best Chromebook you can buy


Chromebooks occupy a unique section of the laptop market — they’re not quite as full-featured as typical notebooks running Windows 10 or MacOS, and instead they run the featherweight Chrome OS from Google. They’re lighter, more portable, and generally have better battery life than their larger counterparts. These are notebooks for students, professionals, and anyone else who needs a laptop designed to spend more time on the go than on a desk.

Nearly every major manufacturer offers their own spin on the Chromebook, and the market has never been more crowded. There’s a lot of options available that look similar at a glance, so we’ve narrowed things down for you by sorting through them all to pick three of our favorite Chromebooks.

Our pick

Samsung Chromebook Pro

Samsung Chromebook Pro reviewWhy should you buy this: You want a Chromebook prepared for the future of Chrome OS

Our Score

The best

Samsung Chromebook Pro

The Samsung Chromebook Pro is the best Chromebook on the market, full stop.

$449.00 from Best Buy

$449.00 from Amazon

Who’s it for: Students, professionals, and anyone in between.

How much will it cost: $550

Why we picked the Samsung Chromebook Pro:

Between the powerful, efficient Intel Core M processor, and the gorgeous 2,400 x 1600 display, this little thing isn’t just an impressive Chromebook, it’s an impressive ultralight laptop.

Building on the legacy of the Chromebooks that came before, Samsung has elevated the design and capabilities of their latest offering, rolling in support for Google Play apps alongside a versatile touch-screen display. Fold it back, and it becomes an Android tablet, set it upright and it’s a mobile workstation.

The Samsung Chromebook Pro is like a Swiss Army knife, capable of filling a variety of roles throughout your day. It’s still a little expensive for a Chromebook, but it’s well under what you’d pay for a comparable Windows 10 notebook.

Our full review

24
Feb

Military grade: Kyocera’s Torque X01 may be one of the toughest phones ever made


Why it matters to you

With feature phones in the conversation again, Kyocera’s Torque X01 could spark renewed interest in no-frills, dependable, ultra-tough devices.

Truly rugged phones are somewhat of a dying breed. Most customers opt to buy a conventional smartphone, then stuff it inside an airtight, sturdy case like a Lifeproof or Otter Box. Seriously strong phones tend to come with serious compromises in the way of features, and that also looks to be the case with Kyocera’s just-announced, Japan-exclusive Torque X01 flip phone.

Then again, it’s possible there’s never been a phone quite this tough before. The Torque X01 meets 18 separate categories of the U.S. military’s durability criteria, according to Kyocera, and survived the company’s proprietary 1.8-meter drop test from 26 different angles. It’s also certified waterproof and dustproof.

More: Meet the rugged smartphone case that X Games athletes rely on

To put things into perspective, the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 sport IP67 and IP68 water resistance, respectively — meaning the iPhone can last for 30 minutes submerged in up to 1m of water, and the Samsung can survive just as long at a maximum depth of 1.5m. The X01 matches the Samsung’s rating, but also meets IPX5 standards to endure rushing water — something most phones cannot handle.

Kyocera says it has built the X01 to stand a 40G shock, temperatures as low as -6 Fahrenheit or as high as 122 F for three hours, low-pressure environments, freezing rain, thawing, and 10 straight days of solar radiation, among other challenges set forth by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The phone also boasts more practical features that are sure to be appreciated by those working out in the elements, like large, embossed number keys for operation with gloves, an FWVGA display for easy viewing under direct sunlight, and dual, high-volume front facing speakers to help alerts cut through ambient noise. In terms of specs, the X01 surely won’t win any benchmarking tests with a 1.1GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, but to its credit, Kyocera has packed in LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity. Combined with a suite of outdoor-minded apps for weather, temperature, barometric pressure, step counting, tide levels, and, most curiously, determining the activity levels of aquatic life, the X01 is smarter than its clamshell appearance suggests.

The Torque X01 is exclusive to Japanese carrier KDDI at the moment, though there’s the potential for a wider release if the recent resurgence of feature phones persists. Nokia surprised and excited the world with its announcement last week that its classic 3310 candy bar-style phone will soon be making a comeback. The 3310 is expected to surface at Mobile World Congress, set to begin on February 27.

24
Feb

Can’t get enough of the Really Blue Pixel? Get a pair of ‘Really Blue’ jeans


Why it matters to you

If you really want to show off your love for your phone, you’ll have to buy clothes that match, like a pair of Really Blue jeans for your Really Blue Pixel.

Think you love your mobile device? Unless you start matching it, you can’t really claim to be that big of a fan of your phone. Luckily, Google is giving you an opportunity to prove yourself. It’s all thanks to a new partnership between the tech giant and freelance fashion designer Christopher Cowan, which has resulted in a pair of “Really Blue” jeans.

That’s right — the wildly popular blue variant of the Google Pixel has now made its way not only to other countries (where it keeps selling out) but also to your legs. So if you’re one of the many customers having trouble finding the Really Blue Pixel in the U.S., Canada, or U.K., you can temporarily satisfy your desire for your new smartphone with a pair of matching pants.

More: What did you think of the Pixel’s design? Google wants to know

The “Really Blue” jeans are being rolled out in conjunction with the Pixel’s global launch, and make no mistake, these jeans were designed for this phone, not the other way around. In fact, the pants have only one pocket, and it’s designed for your Google smartphone. Said designer Cowan, “It’s awesome to be working with Google on this project and a challenge that I couldn’t resist. ‘Really Blue’ is such a unique color and the concept behind it really appealed to me.”

We should point out, of course, that like the Pixel itself, getting a pair of these pants is also going to be incredibly difficult. In order to buy the jeans, you have to order them directly from Cowan, who will actually make you a custom pair. That means that you need to go in for a special fitting with the designer, who will also then determine how large the single pocket needs to be.

This isn’t the first time Cowan has collaborated with a tech company — indeed, the designer previously worked with Acer on the launch of the company’s Iconia A1 – 840 tablet, whereupon Cowan designed a “Selfie Hat.” So if you want an accessory to go with your accessory, check out Christian Cowan and his blue jeans.

24
Feb

LG announces every Gram notebook for 2017, starts selling them immediately


Why it matters to you

If weight is what’s weighing on you when you’re looking for a laptop, LG’s latest offerings will be worth considering.

mwc17-topics-banner-280x75.jpg

Mobile World Congress gives smartphone and wearable manufacturers a perfect chance to show off their latest and greatest, and even make some announcements. There are some laptops that sneak their way onto the showfloor, however. Take for example LG’s new Gram notebooks for 2017, which the firm has made sure will be available in stores right away. Similar models, announced at CES, were already available in South Korea, but there are some changes for the North American market.

The laptops are all very similar, and are divided into three groups by screen size — 13.3, 14.0, and 15.6. They’re all 1,920 x 1,080, and the two smaller sizes include a daylight mode that boosts brightness. All models also sport a USB Type-C port, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, and full-sized HDMI, with an extra USB 2.0 on the largest screen size. They also all have backlit keyboards this time around.

All the 2017 LG Gram notebooks are clad in dark gray, save the base 13.3-inch model, which is stark white instead. It’s available with an Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for $1,000, with a $100 upgrade for a touchscreen and fingerprint scanner.

Moving up a weight class, the 14-inch model comes in two more disparate variations. The $1,200 model includes the Core i5-7200U with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, while the $1,500 configuration bumps the processor to a Core i7-7500U and doubles the size of the SSD. It’s also a touchscreen model.

Finally, the 15.6-inch offerings are very similar to the 14-inch configurations. The $1,200 base model includes a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, while the $1,700 upgraded model has a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the touch panel.

More: LG ships 2017 TVs early this year, prices OLED and Super UHD TV lineup

Of course, the real draw with the LG Gram laptop is its insanely light weight. Manufacturers are constantly taking the lightest and thinnest laptop award from each other, but even the largest LG Gram only weighs 2.4 pounds, and that goes down to just 2.07 if you opt for the 13-inch model.

Of course, batteries are heavy, but LG says its “stack and fold” battery technology helps offset the short endurance problems that tend to plague thin and light machines. Our previous experiences with these machines hasn’t left us optimistic, but we’ll wait to spend time with the new models before passing judgement.

If you’re interested, the LG Gram notebooks are already available at Amazon, Fry’s, Costco, and Microcenter, among others.

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