TUFFS – Quick and Painless Notification Shortcuts (Sponsored Review)
TUFFS is a simple app that, in essence, creates a constant notification in your shade, with a number of configurable “slots” for quick access to apps or shortcuts.
IT’S SO CUTE.
When you install TUFFS, even if you don’t immediately configure it, it still shows up in your notification shade. It’s kind of obnoxious – though it definitely gives you an incentive to configure it ASAP.
Once you’re in the app, it presents you with the main menu screen, shown here, complete with an utterly adorable menu animation that I personally think should be used more often.
Now, there’s a bunch of different options here, but there are really just two that matter – Home, and Settings (and even then, the two could easily be combined). The various options of the app are separated arbitrarily between the two, so you’ll have to do a little exploring before you figure out which options are where.
The free version will land you most of the options, including a single row of up to eight configurable and customizable shortcuts; the paid upgrade – $0.99 – gets you two rows.
The color picker.The theme picker.
The app comes pre-loaded with some common themes among smartphone UIs, in order to better match your TUFFS shortcuts to your Quick Settings. It also includes some custom options for frames and background colors as well as icon pack support, if you fancy creating your own theme. The color picker is also really, really fancy-looking; check it out to the left.
The end result.
The end result is something that looks a little like the image to the left; up to two rows of apps or shortcuts that live in your Notification Shade and Lockscreen for easy access. While TUFFS isn’t the most polished or well-organized app, it does what it sets out to do effectively. The interface is a bit cluttered, but easy; just tap on the shortcut you want to modify, pick the replacement, and you’re done.
It should be noted that I got a couple force-closes while using the app, and it doesn’t reliably ‘stick’ to the Quick Settings like it should – notice that my Kings notification ended up on top of it – but overall it performs well.
TUFFS is available on the Google Play Store for free, with an option unlock all features ($0.99) or unlock and tip the developers ($1.49).
Movements is a charitable-giving app that rounds up your spare change
Why it matters to you
If you’ve ever wanted to donate regularly but couldn’t carve out the time, Movements might be the answer for you.
We buy clothing, order food, book flights, and reserve hotels from our smartphones. In fact, as of 2015, mobile commerce represented 30 percent of all commerce in the United States, and it’s expected to grow nearly three times faster than ecommerce overall.
The market’s upward trajectory has helped to elevate an adjacent, more philanthropic vertical: Charitable giving. But unlike the broader ecommerce industry, the effect hasn’t been especially dramatic. According to Dunham and Company, only 18 percent of donors report using a mobile device to give to a charity’s website, and half of all people who donate to charities online do so once a year.
That’s what Movements, a new mobile app for iOS, hopes to turn around.
More: Charity made mobile: How to give from your phone without getting scammed
The brainchild of CEO and founder Jong Woo, Movements takes aim at a very specific segment of the mobile charitable giving market: Millennials. “Movements was conceived as a response to some of the pain points that I felt when trying to give back,” Jong told Digital Trends. “I had the heart to give and finally some means, but I didn’t know where to start — I knew what causes I card about generally, but I didn’t know which charitable organizations were doing impactful work within those causes.”
The solution Woo settled upon was change — spare change. Instead of having users take charge of the donation process, Movements sets aside funds rounded up from linked credit and debit cards. Once one or more payment methods have been linked to the app’s dashboard, Movements begins to calculate (and subsequently deposit) the round-ups for every transaction.
The money is made available for the charitable cause of an individual user’s choice, but those who need ideas can browse Movements showcase, which ranks organizations across categories like funding goal and time limit.
More: Feeling charitable? eBay unveils donation feature in latest app update
Movements doesn’t stop there. The app provides regular updates on projects in the form of photos, videos, texts, and messages from organizers, and users get briefs on the state of the project post-funding, and information about the real-world impact it’s made.
Woo believes that one of Movements’ greatest strength is its “set and forget it”-style of donation — the act of giving becomes compulsory, in effect. “I believe that the biggest differentiator for Movements is that the app enables people to quickly and easily incorporate giving back into their daily lives,” Woo said.
More: Users can now donate to their favorite charities in the U.K. with Apple Pay
“My hope is that we can bridge the gap that currently exists between a person’s intent to give back and the act of doing it.[In] doing so, I believe that we can unlock the next generation of donors and philanthropists who are able to channel their desire to make a difference with real, impactful action.”
Movements is available for free from the iTunes App Store.
Safari-like Reading List feature makes its way to Chrome beta on iOS
Why it matters to you
Reading List is a useful tool that can help organize, sync, and enable content for offline reading, and is sure to be a welcome addition for Chrome users on iOS.
Google’s Chrome browser for iOS is taking a page from Safari — literally. The Chrome 57 beta for Apple’s mobile devices has introduced Reading List, a feature users of the iOS stock browser have enjoyed for quite a while, according to a report from 9to5Mac.
Chrome’s implementation appears to be iOS-exclusive for now, as Reading List is nowhere to be found in the recently released update to the desktop version of the app. Third-party Chrome extensions have provided a similar service to PC users for some time, though one of the key benefits of the feature on Safari is the ability to sync content between multiple devices. This would indicate that first-party support should eventually arrive on Chrome on other platforms as well.
More: Google makes Chrome for iOS open source
Reading List on Safari allows users to save entire web pages for offline viewing. It’s not quite the same as apps like Pocket or Instapaper, as those automatically present pages in a streamlined, uniform reading-friendly format, akin to news apps. However, Safari does allow users to automatically convert most sites to reader view when opened, which achieves a similar presentation, albeit with less customization than those purpose-built apps.
Reading List on Chrome appears to behave similarly to how it does in Safari, while adding a useful element. Pages are automatically separated between those you have and haven’t read, making it easier to keep track of your favorite links. The feature can be accessed through Chrome’s menu represented by the three dots at the top-right corner of the app. The menu also shows the number of unread articles next to the Reading List option.
Users of the stable version of Chrome on iOS can expect to see the feature roll out very soon. Other changes in the upcoming release are vulnerability patches and improvements to help developers scale sites to multiple display sizes. The Android version has its share of exclusive updates as well, like expanded media notifications and minor changes to the recently released Progressive Web Apps feature.
Harmonix’s mobile ‘Dropmix’ combines card collecting with sound mixing
Why it matters to you
DropMix doesn’t fit the mold of a mobile game but it could open the door for more novel ideas on the platform.
Do you remember DJ Hero, the 2009 record-scratching game with a Guitar Hero style of play? It reviewed well enough to garner a sequel but sales for both games were underwhelming, likely because of music game fatigue. With the resurgence of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Harmonix appears to be trying to capitalize on renewed interest with the unveiling of DropMix.
“DropMix is a fast-paced music mixing game where players create one-of-a-kind mixes by playing cards featuring hit songs from award-winning artists,” Harmonix said.
More: ‘Rock Band VR’ setlist includes tracks by Aerosmith, Oasis, The Black Keys
Harmonix partnered with Hasbro to create a game board featuring five spots for near-field communication-enabled playing cards. Each card plays a different part of a song such as vocals, guitar, or bass. When placed on the board, your mix plays through a connected app on iOS or Android. There is even a slot for your phone, but it can also be played on a tablet. All of your mixes can be saved to your device so that you can show off your mixing talents to friends and family.
There are ways to get competitive with DropMix, though. In Clash Mode, you can play one-on-one or two-on-two with friends. It’s unclear exactly how points are earned but a winner is decided when a team hits 21 points.
DropMix comes bundled with 60 cards and more than 300 cards are planned for the 2017 collection. Two types of card packs will be available separately. Playlist Packs include 16 cards for $15 and Discover Packs contain five cards for $5.
DropMix will probably be best served as a party game. However, it’s arriving during the downfall of the toys-to-life genre, so interest in the collectible aspect of the game is hard to gauge. It’s technically a mobile game and one with an expensive price of $100.
Harmonix promised to provide more details before DropMix launches in September.
Capital One now has a gender-neutral chatbot to help manage your accounts
Why it matters to you
Need some help managing your finances? Check out Eno, the new gender-neutral chatbot from Capital One
Managing your money can be hard work, but Capital One is hoping to make things just a bit easier. Meet Eno, a new intelligent assistant that claims to be the first natural-language SMS chatbot to emerge from a U.S. bank. If you’re a Capital One credit card or bank customer, you’ll now be able to quickly access your account balance, recent transactions, or even pay off your credit card simply by sending Eno a text. And don’t worry about phrasing your messages in a bot-friendly way — just text as you would with a friend, and Eno will take care of the rest.
More: Yahoo’s new chatbot Captain will help chart a course for your busy life
Just think of Eno as your supremely responsible, financially savvy text buddy. Ask the gender-neutral virtual assistant about your Capital One credit card, checking or savings account, your credit card due date, your available credit and credit limit, your payment history, and even your bank routing number. And yes, the decision to make Eno (which is “One” spelled backwards) was intentional. If you ask Eno whether it’s male or female, it’ll simply reply that it’s “binary.” Its favorite color, however, is green.
And while the banking industry exactly known as the most fun of sectors, Eno wants to buck that trend a bit. If you send an emoji of a bag of money, you’ll get a summary of your accounts. Alternatively, you can send a thumbs up to confirm a payment. Eno is still a relatively new technology, but Ken Dodelin, Capital One’s vice president of digital product development, believes that the bot’s future is bright. “The more people chat with Eno, the more it will learn,” Dodelin told Reuters.
So if you need some help managing your Capital One accounts, visit the Eno website and start texting away.
Meet RAMBO, the Army’s badass new 3D-printed grenade launcher
Why it matters to you
The U.S. Army is developing 3D-printable weapons, and this is just the beginning
You know 3D-printing has hit the big leagues when the military starts using the technology to produce weapons. Researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center this week announced the successful development and firing of a 3D-printed grenade from a 3D-printed grenade launcher.
The grenade launcher, aptly named RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was designed and developed as part of a collaborative effort between the Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program. Also involved was AmericaMakes, an accelerator program that brings together the best minds in additive manufacturing and 3D-printing technology.
The RAMBO grenade launcher is comprised of 50 parts, and all of the components, except the springs and fasteners, were produced using 3D-printing. Different parts of the grenade launcher, however, were manufactured using different materials and additive manufacturing techniques — the barrel and receiver were fabricated from aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process, while the trigger and firing pin were printed using alloy steel.
Additive manufacturing enables accelerated development
When developing the grenade launcher, the Army wanted a weapon that could move through the prototype stage and land in the hands of soldiers quickly. Instead of waiting for months for a single machined prototype weapon, Army researchers were able to 3D-print and test multiple versions of the grenade launcher in a fraction of that time. It took 70 hours to print the barrel and receiver and another 5 hours to finish off the part in post production. Overall, instead of years, it took a mere six months to produce a weapon and compatible ammunition that was suitable for test firing.
More: Next-generation U.S. military grenade is two grenades in one
Not only is the 3D-printing process time efficient, but it also is cost-effective from both a materials and manpower standpoint. The process of additive manufacturing can print intricate parts that would take a machinist hours to complete by hand. The 3D-printing process also can be performed autonomously, requiring an operator only to turn on the machine and check it intermittently until the process is complete. An added bonus is that no scrap material is produced during the 3D-printing process.
Next step: 3D-printed ammunition
Besides the grenade launcher, the Army is also moving to 3D-print the ammunition for the launcher. Working at two RDECOM research and development centers, researchers were able to 3D-print a standard 40-mm M781 training round.
From a 3D-printing point of view, the grenade was a success. Three of the four main parts of the M781 grenade — the windshield, the projectile body, and the cartridge case, were 3D-printed. Only the .38-caliber cartridge case was purchased as a separate unit and then pressed into the 3D-printed cartridge case. It is worth noting that the rounds are not live, as the addition of explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics have not been approved for use in a 3D-printed shell.
Once completed, the Army tested the RAMBO weapon using a remote firing system at both indoor ranges and outdoor testing facilities. All 3D-printed rounds were successfully fired through the launcher. Initial tests showed there was some variation in ammunition velocities, but that variance was quickly rectified by a few rounds of design changes and 3D-printing. The Army is now testing the reliability of the weapon under sustained and long-term use.
Oculus exec John Carmack launches $22.5M lawsuit against ZeniMax Media
Why it matters to you
Carmack’s lawsuit marks the next chapter of a legal battle that could impact Oculus’ attempts to seize control of the market for virtual reality headsets.
The next chapter of the dispute between Oculus and ZeniMax Media is brewing in Dallas, Texas. On Tuesday, Oculus’ chief technology officer, John Carmack, sued ZeniMax, alleging that the publisher still owes him $22.5 million from its purchase of Id Software in 2009.
The lawsuit states that ZeniMax agreed to a payment of $150 million, but wrongly refused to pay the final installment or allow Carmack to convert its value into shares of stock, according to a report from The Dallas Morning News.
The missing installment is linked to a convertible promissory note valued at over $45.1 million that Carmack received at the time of the sale. He received half of its value in shares of ZeniMax stock, and is now requesting that the court compel the company to pay the balance.
More: Oculus Rift: Common problems and how to fix them
“Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract,” states the lawsuit filed by Carmack. ZeniMax, however, doesn’t seem to be taking the legal action lying down.
A spokeswoman for the company contacted The Dallas Morning News, arguing that Carmack’s claim that his agreement with ZeniMax had been violated had already been rejected in court. “Apparently lacking in remorse, and disregarding the evidence of his many faithless acts and violations of law, Mr. Carmack has decided to try again,” read the statement.
ZeniMax and Oculus have been embroiled in a legal battle for the better part of three years. In February 2017, ZeniMax was awarded $500 million in damages after Oculus employees were found to have broken non-disclosure agreements — and just weeks later, ZeniMax requested an injunction that could prevent Oculus from selling its Rift virtual reality headsets.
Carmack’s lawsuit has a direct connection to ZeniMax’s legal victory earlier this year. The documents filed against the publisher allege that ZeniMax refused to pay the remainder of the money owed to Carmack under the prior judgment, even though the jury found that Carmack didn’t infringe on any copyright or misappropriate trade secrets.
Don’t want to miss a thing? Here are 5 new 360-degree cameras that can capture it all
Everyone loves those 360-degree photos shared on Facebook. The social network reports that millions of people watch them every day. They’ve proven popular enough for Facebook to invest heavily in the medium (the company recently launched a 360 app for the Samsung Gear VR). And with this growing interest in virtual reality and 360-degree live-stream content, it’s been no surprise to find plenty of cameras that shoot 360-degree images and video coming out in 2017. We’ve collected together the standout ones here, but you can expect this list to grow.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
The new Giroptic iO is a convenient, well-designed, and really easy to use 360-degree camera accessory for the iPhone. It attaches to the Lightning connector, so you have to turn the phone upside down to use it, but the custom app quickly turns around to match. The app is the standout, as it’s incredibly straightforward. The interface is clear, and there are no superfluous buttons to get in the way of shooting and sharing content. We found using the app to be highly stable and fluid.
The company has been working in the 360-degree image space since 2008, and understands that stitching together images to create a single 360-degree picture is quite a challenge, so has been perfecting the technology on the iO camera. It’s available to buy now for $250.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to add a 360-degree camera to your smartphone. Chinese phone manufacturer Ulefone has launched the VRKam, which will cost about $100 when it goes on sale soon. It plugs into a USB Type-C port and comes with its own custom Android app. We tried it out, but it was still under development and often reacted slowly. However, the high-resolution stills and videos looked good, and there are various filters to add to the finished product. It’s also small and light, so the unit can easily be carried around.
Expect to have to import the VRKam from China if you want one.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
The Ricoh R is slightly different from other 360 cameras, as it’s designed for standalone live streaming, or for more professional applications. That doesn’t make it any less desirable though, and its ultra-compact size makes it perfect for use by keen YouTubers wanting to try out high-end VR streaming.
A modified version of the Ricoh Theta, the camera records a 1,920 x 960-pixel image at 30 frames per second (fps), and can keep going for 24-hours provided it’s plugged into a power supply — that’s the official claim, although a Ricoh engineer told us it could probably last longer. The real-time stitching of images shot by the two lenses really impresses here, and makes the Ricoh R stand out from other models. The Ricoh R is available as a pre-order for $500 right now, although it’s more of a business solution than a consumer gadget.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Another step up in the 360-degree camera world, the Vuze looks unlike all the other cameras on our list and is aimed at the keen amateur or professional VR content creator. First teased at CES 2016, the camera uses eight Sony sensors around the UFO-like body, which shoot immersive 3D video in 4K resolution. It’s controlled by a smartphone app, and the content is transferred over to the computer ready for editing. We watched 3D video shot on the Vuze using simple clip-on VR-viewing glasses over a smartphone screen, and the footage — shot on a sailing boat — looked amazing. It’s not cheap though, and you’ll have to spend $800 to get one.
ProTruly Darling VR Phone
It’s not just the name that’s weird about this one. It’s a smartphone with a 360-degree camera built into the body, resulting in a very long, and really bizarre-looking device. Rather than rely on the tech to make the Darling stand out, the company will make models made from gold and diamonds. Because why wouldn’t it?
That’s going to mean a massive price tag of at least $1,300 when (if?) it eventually goes on sale, at which time we’d be surprised to see it turn up outside China. It’s also not the first of its type either. Yezz showed off a prototype 360-degree camera phone called the Sfera in 2016, but the device has never gone on sale.
Congress again pushing NSA to reveal number of Americans under surveillance
Why it matters to you
Are you curious to know just how many Americans are affected by the NSA’s mass-surveillance programs. Well, the agency still isn’t talking.
With the legislation that effectively legalizes the National Security Agency mass surveillance programs Prism and Upstream set to expire at the end of 2017, Congress is once again asking for numbers on how many Americans have been surveilled. Just as it has for the past six years, though, the NSA isn’t playing ball.
Although most Americans only learned of the country’s large-scale spying operations after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed them, Congress has been aware a little longer. Since 2011, several key members have been trying to find out how many Americans the NSA has collected personal information from, but they’ve always been denied, according to Ars Technica.
The reason Congress is making a big case to have those numbers revealed this year is because, as during the Obama administration, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will expire on December 31. While the Trump administration is keen to see this legislation remain in place, according to The Intercept, Congress wants the numbers to know just how effective it is and how much useless information is potentially collected from regular citizens.
More: The NSA and GCHQ can see data from your phone when you’re 10,000 feet in the air
The NSA says that it can’t reveal them, even in top-secret briefings. Just as it did when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) requested them in 2011, 2012 and 2014, it claims that by revealing how many Americans were affected, it would require identifying them. That, it claims, would mean destroying their anonymity as part of the data, thereby making their information more vulnerable.
That sort of circular logic isn’t sitting well with senators, nor with privacy champion the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is urging Congress to allow FISA to expire, thereby making the mass spying conducted by the NSA and other intelligence agencies illegal in the future.
As it stands, the NSA uses Prism to siphon mass data from popular online services like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, while Upstream lets it tap into the fiber cables that transmit the internet across the country and around the world.
Although the NSA and others argue that such technologies are vital in helping protect Americans, many have argued that mass surveillance breaches the Constitution and undermines the idea of a free and democratic society.
Old-school incredible: These stunning aerial photos weren’t shot from drones
Why it matters to you
Inspiration comes in many forms and these shots could spark some creativity while also raising money for charity.
Drones have brought aerial photography into the spotlight, but the photos from the latest Professional Aerial Photographer Association (PAPA) event weren’t shot from a game-like controller and an unmanned copter. The organization is celebrating its 43rd year with more than 50 shots auctioned for charity.
PAPA, a worldwide organization, is made up of both pilots and photographers from industry up-and-comers to veterans in the field and longtime family aerial art businesses. Most PAPA photographers shoot from airplanes or helicopters and some even own vintage aircraft passed down from generations, like a 1969 Cessna. Along with annual contests and conferences, the organization also holds art auctions to raise money for a cause.
More: These could be the 9 best drone images you see all year
This year’s PAPA art auction is selling aerial prints from member photographers through March 18 online. All of the proceeds from the image sales will be heading to Hope for Honduran Children and the Noreen Macbean Children’s Center, an organization that gives orphaned boys in Santa Lucia, Honduras, housing, education and occupational training.
The collection of aerial imagery includes several award winners from PAPA’s latest contests, from cityscapes and iconic landmarks to abstract patterns shot from above. While the auction reaches worldwide with the online format, the images will also be on display at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront hotel in Burlingame, California on March 17 and 18.
HP Inc. is donating the printing costs for each image, as well as sponsoring 12 large murals printed on aluminum.
Contributions through the auction are tax deductible since Hope for Honduran Children is a nonprofit organization.
PAPA’s goal is to provide education and promote business ethics to aerial photographers throughout the world. The auction’s featured photographers include a range of artists from around the world, from Niki Britton, a low-light aerial photographer that joined her family’s photography business three years ago, to Ron Brown, a Virginia-native with nearly 60 years of flight experience. The list of artists ranges from professionals with clientele like National Geographic to photographers specializing in 3D-aerial mapping.
The auction is open online until March 18.