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4
Jul

Surprise: Samsung is building a Bixby-powered AI speaker


Samsung is developing its own voice-activated smart speaker incorporating its Bixby virtual assistant, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Codenamed ‘Vega’, the AI-powered speaker will be Samsung’s offering in a market already crowded by the likes of Amazon and Google, with Apple and Microsoft recently announcing their plans to get in on the action too, through HomePod and Invoke.

Very little beyond the Vega name is known about the development — according to WSJ its features and specs are yet to be decided, and there’s no sign of a release date. To stand out in an already squeezed market it’ll certainly need to boast something impressive.

In a blog post from March, Samsung executive vice president Injong Lee laid out the company’s aspirations for Bixby, and it seems likely Vega will be incorporated into these ambitious plans.

“Starting with our smartphones, Bixby will be gradually applied to all our appliances. In the future, you would be able to control your air conditioner or TV through Bixby. Since Bixby will be implemented in the cloud, as long as a device has an internet connection and simple circuitry to receive voice inputs, it will be able to connect with Bixby,” Lee wrote.

However, Bixby has proven something of a headache for Samsung so far. Despite centering a lot of its marketing around the feature during the launch of the Galaxy S8, Samsung eventually released the phone without Bixby in the US — it’s only gradually being rolled out now, and is unlikely to be completed before the second half of July, according to WSJ sources.

If Samsung can get on top of its existing Bixby issues and offer something unique with its debut smart speaker, then Vega could be a hit. The market is crowded, but there is demand. The number of Americans using voice-activated speakers will reach about 36 million this year, according to eMarketer — over double last year’s figure.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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4
Jul

When tech nostalgia goes too far


Nintendo had a bonafide smash on its hands with the NES Classic. And it looks like the SNES mini console will fly off of store shelves just as quickly. But it’s not the only company looking to cash in on your nostalgia. Nowadays, there are reboots of TV shows like Twin Peaks and MST3K. Oh, and how about Netflix’s Stranger Things, a series that’s basically a love letter to the 80s? These are all examples of nostalgia products done right. But not everything we’ve seen in recent years has been as great as you would have hoped. Because, seriously, do you really want one of the Furbys pictured above watching you sleep? And who would be caught dead toting around a Tamagotchi in 2017?

You know what, maybe that is you, and who are we to judge? But if you ask us, these 10 things probably took our retro obsession a little too far.

4
Jul

Nokia’s new smartphones start at £120 in the UK


Now Nokia’s name is back in the public consciousness thanks to the all the hype surrounding the 3310 reissue, manufacturer HMD Global is onto more serious matters: Bringing Nokia back as a smartphone brand. HMD first announced the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 back at MWC in February, and finally we have firm UK pricing and availability details for the trio of Android devices. Launching first on July 12th for £120 is the Nokia 3, the lowest-end model with a 5-inch, 720p display, a quad-core MediaTek chip, 2 gigs of RAM, 16GB of storage and a pair of 8-megapixel cameras.

The cheap and cheerful handset isn’t particularly impressive on paper, but HMD has managed to drum up enough interest that carriers including EE and Vodafone have decided to range it, as well as retailers such as Carphone Warehouse and Amazon. Arriving in Blighty on the later date of August 2nd, the Nokia 5 is made for slightly deeper pockets at £180. It’s only a minor improvement over the Nokia 3, but for that extra cash you get a bigger 5.2-inch screen (still 720p), an octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor and 13-megapixel primary shooter. No word on where it’ll be available yet, but we’d imagine a similar number of carrier and retailer partners will be on board.

Anyone interested in the most powerful smartphone HMD has to offer will have to wait until August 16th for the launch of the £220 Nokia 6. It, too, is working with a Snapdragon 430 chip, but it’s paired with 3GB of RAM and 32 gigs of storage this time around. The priciest device also bumps the display up to a 5.5-inch, 1080p number, and the primary camera clocks in at 16 megapixels. If you were hoping to get your hands on a limited edition “Arte Black” version of the Nokia 6 — which boasts a glossy paint job, 4 gigs of RAM and double the standard storage — there’s no news today on when that might come to the UK to steal the regular model’s thunder.

4
Jul

Report Says U.S. Government Filed to Intervene in Apple’s Tax Appeal in Europe


The U.S. government has filed an application with the General Court of the European Union to intervene in an ongoing tax-related case between Apple and the European Commission, according to Reuters.

“I can confirm the United States filed an application with the European Union General Court to intervene in the case involving the retroactive application of state aid rules to Apple,” said the source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The report did not specify when the application was submitted, so it’s unclear if it occurred under the Barack Obama or Donald Trump administrations.

Last August, following a three-year investigation, the European Commission found Apple received illegal state aid from Ireland. The iPhone maker allegedly paid between 0.005 percent and 1 percent in taxes in Ireland between 2003 and 2014, compared to the the country’s headline 12.5 percent corporate tax rate.

The European Commission ordered Apple to pay up to 13 billion euros to Ireland in back taxes as a result of its decision.

Apple appealed the case in December, arguing that the European Commission made “fundamental errors” by failing to recognize that its “profit-driving activities,” in particular the development and commercialization of intellectual property, were controlled and managed in the United States.

Ireland has also appealed the case, denying that it gave any favourable tax treatment to Apple. In a statement, the Irish government said the full amount of tax in the case was paid by Apple, adding that no state aid was provided. “Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers,” the country said.

Apple’s top lawyer Bruce Sewell earlier said the company is a “convenient target” because it “generates lots of headlines,” allowing European commissioner Margrethe Vestager to become “Dane of the year” for 2016.

The report, citing a source with knowledge of the matter, said the General Court is expected to hear the case in late 2018.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: Apple-Ireland tax case
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4
Jul

Are you a new parent/shutterbug? Here’s how to take great kids photos


Parenting is messy and exhausting, yet, it’s one of the best reasons to learn photography. Some of the best amateur photographers are parents. They delve into the hobby because they have a new addition to the family, but soon realize that — like many other aspects of parenting for first-time moms and dads — they have no idea what they are doing. Flashes reflect off this and that; shadows appear that never existed before; and skin tones look washed out, blown out, or altogether unnatural. Thankfully, learning how to take kids photos creates a fun, simple hobby you can enjoy without hiring a babysitter — and what parent doesn’t need that?

The gear you’ll need

While some elements of taking photos improve by getting a new camera, you don’t really need to spend a dime if you master the gear that you already have. Sure, upgrading from a smartphone camera to a DSLR or mirrorless variant will offer even more improvement as you learn how to photograph children, but don’t spend the diaper fund on a new camera just yet.

So what do you need, ideally, to take good photos of kids? Kids are fast — if you have a child above crawling age, that’s stating the obvious. But fast subjects need a good autofocus and a fast burst speed. Many of the most memorable kids moments also happen in less-than-ideal lighting conditions — a bright lens will both help in low light, and create that creamy, out-of-focus background.

A DSLR is faster; allows you to do more creative things with your photos by offering infinite control over composition; will have an inherently longer lens; and will take better pictures nine times out of ten, even if you simply use Auto mode and let the camera do the rest. Sure, these cameras are more expensive, but the quality of the images will be worth it for years to come.

Okay: A zoom camera with manual modes. Try the Nikon P900 or Panasonic FZ2500.

Good: An entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera with a kit lens. Try the Nikon D3400 or Canon EOS Rebel SL2.

Better: A mid-level DSLR with a bright prime lens. Try pairing the Nikon D5500 or the Fujifilm X-T20 with a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.

Best: A speedy shooter with a bright lens. These are pricey, but if you have a big budget, consider the Nikon D500, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, or Sony A7R II.

Stuck with a smartphone until you’re no longer buying diapers? Download a free photography app with manual modes and follow the next steps to improve your photos with technique, not cash.

Step 1: Get to know your camera

The more you know your camera, the better your pictures are going to be. Do you know how to take several photos in quick succession? How do you pop up the flash? Does your camera offer RAW files for more control over photo edits? Take the time to sit down and notice where all the dials and buttons are and dig through the menu of other settings. For learning how to photograph kids, in particular, you want to find:

Burst mode: This takes several photos in a row instead of a single photo. This is essential for getting the timing just right, from catching a baby’s smile to capturing that first t-ball practice. Even the iPhone has burst mode.

Flash: Most new photographers are afraid of flash, but you’ll want to find out where yours is located for low-light shots and even improving outdoor photos in the middle of the day.

RAW: If you have a photo editing program, shooting in RAW is a good idea. If you don’t have the software (or, for many parents, the time) then stick with JPEGs.

Autofocus modes: Take note of where your autofocus modes are. When your kids are moving, you’ll want continuous autofocus or AF-C (Canon refers to this as AI Servo). But on those few occasions when they are actually sitting still, switch to single autofocus, or AF-S (AI Focus on Canon).

Exposure compensation: Photo too light or too dark? Exposure compensation allows you to adjust even before you’ve learned how to use manual modes.

Step 2: Explore shooting modes

Most dedicated cameras have a kids mode inside the different scene options that’s a good starting point. But, to really take control over the images, start digging into manual mode. Don’t try diving in headfirst to full manual. Start with aperture priority mode, usually the A on the mode dial. A small aperture or f-number lets in more light and creates those soft, out-of-focus backgrounds, perfect for blurring that pile of laundry in the background to oblivion. Most of the time, when photographing children, you’ll  want a low f-number. To keep more of the photo sharp, like if you are photographing multiple kids in one shot or if the scene is particularly interesting, then you’ll want to use a larger f-number like f/8.

Once you’re comfortable with aperture, dig into shutter speed — higher shutter speeds are best for fast kids, but you’ll need slower shutter speeds indoors and in low light. The general rule is to double the shutter speed to your lens — so, a 50mm kit lens would need to be at least 1/100. Active kids, though, generally need at least a 1/250, so play around with the shutter speed. The final piece of the puzzle is ISO, which is how sensitive the camera is to light. If there’s plenty of light, keep it low, but in the darkest conditions use those high numbers like ISO 1600. Dig more in depth into using manual modes here, then head out and practice, watching how the different settings change your shot.

As you shoot in manual, the meter inside the viewfinder tells you if the photo is too light or too dark — essential for when shooting in full manual. If you never make it off aperture and shutter priority modes, don’t sweat it — those modes, mixed with exposure compensation will work fine for photographing kids 95 percent of the time.

Step 3: Zoom

Aperture isn’t the only thing that affects depth of field, or how blurred that background is. Using a zoom lens creates that affect too, and also helps parents capture more candid photos since kids are less likely to notice the camera out when you’re standing farther away.

“A compact camera’s sensor doesn’t allow for shallow depth of field, or any depth of field for that matter,” says Steve Heiner, the Senior Technical Manager at Nikon Inc. “The longer the lens, the higher the focal length, the more this shallow depth of field is possible.”

For example, if you zoom out to the 55mm end of your 18-55mm kit lens that is most likely included with your new DSLR, you can get a very nice softening of the background. If you shoot with the 18mm end of the lens, the background will be in focus. For more fun with depth of field, you can purchase an even longer zoom, such as a 55-300mm lens, to further decrease the depth of field. These telephoto lenses are also wonderful for snapping very candid photos of your kids, who often go into turtle mode or mug for the camera if they know they are being photographed. With a telephoto lens, you can take secret, interesting photos from afar.

4
Jul

How to photograph fireworks and capture the color of Independence Day


The Fourth of July is great for all sorts of things — family time, baseball, sunburns — but it’s not always the easiest to capture within a single frame. These days, fireworks are as synonymous with the American holiday as over-the-top parades featuring your actual uncle as Uncle Sam. Thanks to their complex patterns and varied color combinations (created through a mixture of metals and compounds), fireworks also make great photographic subjects — yet they remain one of the most elusive and challenging tasks for any photographer to capture. To photograph fireworks the right way, you’ll need the proper equipment and a willingness to fiddle with your camera’s exposure settings. Check out a few of our tips below to go from amateur to ace when it comes to shooting fireworks this Independence Day (or any other event that calls for fireworks, naturally).

Set up your camera ahead of time

It’s always a good idea to find out where in the sky the fireworks show will be before you head out to photograph it. If you can set up your camera well before the event starts with a clear idea of where to aim your camera and how you’ll frame your shot, this will take away a lot of the guess work. When you’re in the city or have a good view of the surrounding landscape, you may want to include some foreground elements — such as a skyline or the gathering crowd — to make your images more interesting.

We recommend using an interchangeable lens camera — either a DSLR or mirrorless model — for best results. Any camera with a manual exposure mode will do, including a smartphone with an advanced camera app. You’ll get better results with better equipment, but don’t be afraid to try with what you have.

Also, if you do go out with an interchangeable lens camera, think about what lens you’ll use to photograph fireworks before they start exploding. Depending on how far away you are, the altitude the fireworks will be at, and whether you want to include some of the environment in your photos, you may want to use a wide-angle lens, a normal focal length, or maybe even a telephoto lens. Adding some context into your fireworks photos is never a bad idea, and wide angle lenses are good for this. Telephoto lenses will let you zero in on details or focus on a specific background element (like a single building, rather than a full cityscape) to frame the fireworks. If possible, bring a couple different choices so you can try out various different shots, but keep in mind that swapping lenses during the show might not be the easiest thing to do without missing good moments.

Additionally, try to position yourself upwind of the action. That way all the smoke from the fireworks will blow away from you, keeping an open view of the sky in front of your camera so each successive round of explosions remains clearly visible.

Use a tripod

Using a tripod is all but necessary to capture clear and sharp photos of fireworks, especially when using a longer lens. A tripod will also let you use a slower shutter speed so you can get creative, capturing long streaks of light as the glowing particles spread out into the night sky.

If you don’t own a tripod or cannot buy one in time, there are other means to stabilizing your camera. For one, many cameras and lenses offer sophisticated image stabilization that allows you to shoot at shutter speeds down to 1/10th of a second or so — provided you have steady hands. Another option is to steady your camera on a pole, a railing, a wall, a table, or anything with an even surface – something like a Gorillapod comes in handy for this. Shooting with a wide-angle lens will also make handholding easier, and you can also stick to faster shutter speeds — but you’ll sacrifice the creative options of long exposures if you do.

Ditch the flash

We can’t say how many times we’ve seen people trying to photograph fireworks with their camera’s flash turned on. This usually results from leaving the camera in fully automatic mode, but if your flash is firing for any reason, find the option to disable it in your camera’s menu system. A flash won’t help you here.

Focus manually

Your best bet is to turn off autofocus completely, if possible. If you leave it on, your camera’s autofocus system will likely just “hunt” back and forth because it won’t have any object to lock focus on. This could cause you to miss the shot completely. Instead, set your focus to some point in the distance. If there are other distant objects in your shot (such as a building or skyline), you can focus on those.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Most DSLR lenses and some lenses for mirrorless cameras have a distance scale on the focus ring or in a separate window (as seen above in the Sigma 135mm F1.8). Chances are, the fireworks will be far enough away that you set your lens to the infinity (∞) position and adjust from there if necessary.

4
Jul

OnePlus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S8


One of the biggest selling points of OnePlus devices in years past are the low price points. Compared to the high-end Samsungs, HTCs, and LGs of the world, OnePlus devices have traditionally carried price tags that are a few hundred dollars lower than the competition.

Now that OnePlus has increased the price point with its latest flagship, is the OnePlus 5 able to go toe-to-toe with the latest and greatest from Samsung? Or does the price difference belie a larger feature gap? We find out, as we take an in-depth look at the OnePlus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8 Plus!

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Design

One of the biggest and most obvious differences you’ll notice between the OnePlus 5 and the Galaxy S8 is the way they look and feel.

You get a full metal unibody construction with the OnePlus 5, with its reshaped antenna lines and the look and placement of the dual camera setup resulting in a striking resemblance to the iPhone 7 Plus (or the OPPO R11). Regardless of how you may feel about that, it is still a good looking design and comfortable to hold, largely thanks to its slightly curved back and rounded corners.

The OnePlus 5 is a tad slippery though, so you might want to consider getting a case for your shiny new device.


On the other hand, a mostly glass build that is held together by a metal frame is what you get with the Galaxy S8 smartphones, which has typically been the case since this was introduced a couple of generations ago. Both the front and rear glass panels have been curved for both aesthetic reasons and for comfort in the hand. As good as these phones look, though, it doesn’t take long for your fingerprints to get all over it and somewhat diminish its appearance.

Both the OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8 look really sleek, but the build material of both smartphones make for quite slippery devices. It’s going to be a toss up between the two as far as handling is concerned.

Display

The main attraction of the Galaxy S8 is its display, and it just blows the screen of the OnePlus 5 out of the water.

The Galaxy S8’s display is infinitely better in every way

That’s not to say that the 1080p display of the OnePlus 5 is lacking in any way. However, when comparing them side by side, the Galaxy S8 is infinitely (no pun intended) better in every way. The display of the Galaxy S8 is practically edge-to-edge, and by getting rid of the Samsung logo and the physical home button up front, the company was able to shrink down the bezels and stretch the screen vertically to give you more display real estate in a smaller body.


While the displays of both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are larger than that of the OnePlus 5, what is truly surprising is that in terms of the size, the OnePlus 5 is actually more similar to the Galaxy S8 Plus. The displays of the Samsung smartphones are incredible to look at, and there’s nothing that is quite comparable currently available in the market.

Performance

Both the Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5 come with the fastest processor currently on the market – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. With the S8, you’re getting 4 GB of RAM, while the 5 sports either 6 or 8 GB of RAM.

Everything just feels more fluid on the OnePlus 5

Both these phones perform extremely well when it comes to everyday tasks like launching apps, playing games, or browsing the web, but everything feels much more fluid on the OnePlus 5. Some of the credit has to be given to the software package and the faster animations, but it definitely feels like the extra RAM makes a huge difference. The OnePlus 5 can hold a lot of apps in its memory and it has been incredibly difficult to slow this phone down, which is never a bad thing.

Of course, the Galaxy S8 provides a smooth experience as well. Even though the animations are longer, they do make for a more refined appearance. I will admit that the Galaxy S8 does tend to stutter on occasion throughout the day, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means but is something you will notice after using the phone for a while.

Hardware

On the hardware side is where the Galaxy S8 has a few advantages over the OnePlus 5, with the former coming with features like wireless charging, expandable storage, and dust and water resistance. Any of these features could be make or break additions depending on what you are looking for from your smartphone experience, but it has to be said that ingress protection is something that is becoming a standard feature with high-end releases. It would have been nice to see with the OnePlus 5 as well.

Ingress protection is something that is becoming a standard feature with high-end releases

Both the Galaxy S8 and the OnePlus 5 come with Bluetooth 5.0 onboard, too.

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Why you won’t be using Bluetooth 5 on your Galaxy S8 just yet – Gary explains

May 26, 2017

Because of the S8’s new design, Samsung needed to move the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone. But instead of centering the sensor on the back (like most other devices with rear-mounted sensors), Samsung decided to place it next to the camera module. This placement is pretty awkward.

You do get used to this position eventually but it’s still not the most intuitive location. To make matters worse, the scanner is quite slow and inconsistent. Other unlocking methods like the iris scanner and facial recognition are available as well, but those aren’t the most reliable or 100% secure either. On the other hand, the fingerprint sensor of the OnePlus 5 is at a far more convenient location up front and is also one of the fastest scanners I’ve ever used on a smartphone.

The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus come with 3,000 mAh and 3,500 mAh batteries respectively, while the OnePlus 5 features a 3,300 mAh unit. I have been using the Galaxy S8 Plus as a daily driver and despite it coming with a larger battery, the battery life has been far better with the OnePlus 5.

Both are capable of comfortably lasting throughout an entire day of use, but there’s usually a little more left over with the OnePlus 5. There have also been instances where I’ve been able to push to battery of the OnePlus 5 to last up to a day and a half, which has never happened with the Galaxy S8 Plus. You can definitely see the advantages of having a 1080p display with regards to battery life when looking at the battery performance of the OnePlus 5.

I also prefer OnePlus’ Dash Charge technology over Samsung’s fast charging method. Dash Charge is just significantly faster than the other, and it quite possibly the fastest charging method that is currently available on any smartphone.

Camera

The biggest change OnePlus has made this year is to the camera. The OnePlus 5 has a dual camera setup with a 16 MP main sensor with a f/1.7 aperture and a 20 MP secondary unit with a f/2.6 aperture. The latter is a telephoto lens that allows for 2x lossless zoom and the ability to emulate a blurry background or bokeh effect with its portrait mode.

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On the other hand, Samsung has stuck to a more traditional camera setup, with a single 12 MP shooter with a f/1.7 aperture and it also comes with optical image stabilization, which isn’t available with either sensor of the OnePlus 5. The lack of OIS on the OnePlus 5 makes a huge difference, particularly when shooting in low light conditions. The OnePlus 5’s photos are noticeably softer in detail, less sharp, noisier, and tend to have orange-y color tones that don’t look very natural.

OnePlus 5 camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S8 / S8 Plus camera samples

OnePlus is able to close the gap in well-lit situations, with images that aren’t that far off from what the Galaxy S8 is able to produce. However, the differences are much easier to spot once you look at lot closer. The OnePlus 5 tends to ever so slightly overexpose images, making the colors, shadows, and blacks look much more washed out. When you zoom in, you can see that the photos are just not quite as sharp or as detailed as what is seen with the Galaxy S8.

Software

Software certainly plays a huge role in the overall experience here. While I like what both Samsung and OnePlus have to offer, I prefer the latter simply because it is a lot closer to stock Android or what you get with the Google Pixel, albeit with a lot of nice features on top to customize the OS. You can change the accent colors, switch to a great-looking dark theme, enable on-screen navigation keys, and use a variety of off-screen gestures to launch the camera, turn on the flashlight, or open an application of your choice.

The new version of the OxygenOS has introduced a few new features as well, including a reading mode that turns the screen to grayscale to make it easier on the eyes, and a “do not disturb” mode created specifically so that you aren’t interrupted in the middle of of playing a game.

Samsung has also done a great job with improving their software package by introducing cleaner icons and a toned down color scheme. Everything is really enjoyable for the most part. Samsung has a bunch of software tricks of their own, like the Game Launcher for managing all your games in one place, the theme engine that lets you customize virtually every part of the user interface, and the very useful Always On Display that is also highly customizable and can show important information like the time, date, and notifications.

The biggest problem with Samsung’s software continues to be all the extra bloatware and duplicate applications. The addition of Samsung’s AI assistant, Bixby, which isn’t even fully available yet, only further adds to the redundancy, especially when the phone already comes with Google Assistant. Samsung even went as far as to add an additional hardware button to encourage the use of Bixby, but that isn’t a move that has paid off so far. Of course, that might change when Bixby Voice gets out of beta and comes available to everyone. The OnePlus 5 also comes with an extra hardware button, but this one has a more practical use, by allowing you to easily switch between different notification profiles.

Specs comparison

Display 5.5-inch AMOLED
1920 x 1080 resolution
401 ppi
16:9 aspect ratio
5.8- or 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
2960 x 1440 resolution
570 or 529 ppi
18.5:9 aspect ratio
Processor 2.45 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform U.S.: 64-bit octa-core (2.35 GHz Quad + 1.9 GHz Quad) Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 10 nm process

Global: 64-bit octa-core (2.3 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad) Samsung Exynos 8895, 10 nm process

RAM 6/8 GB
LPDDR4
4 GB
LPDDR4
Storage 64/128 GB
UFS 2.1
64 GB
UFS 2.1
MicroSD No Yes, up to 256 GB
Cameras Rear camera
Main: 16 MP Sony IMX 398 sensor, 1.12 μm, ƒ/1.7 aperture, EIS, dual LED flash
Telephoto: 20 MP Sony IMX 350 sensor, 1.0 μm, ƒ/2.6 aperture

Front: 16 MP Sony IMX 371 sensor, 1.0 μm, ƒ/2.0 aperture, EIS

Rear: 12 MP AF sensor, 1.4 μm, ƒ/1.7 aperture, OIS, LED flash

Front: 8 MP AF sensor, 1.22 μm, ƒ/1.7 aperture

Battery 3,300 mAh
Non-removable
Dash Charge (5V 4A)
3,000 or 3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging
Water resistance No IP68 dust and water resistance
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat
OxygenOS
Android 7.0 Nougat
TouchWiz
Dimensions and weight 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
153 g
S8: 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm, 155 g
S8 Plus: 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g

Gallery

Final thoughts

While these phones may be separated by up to a couple of hundred dollars, they are a lot closer than you might think. However, that doesn’t mean that the cheaper price tag of the OnePlus 5 hasn’t resulted in any compromises, and you can definitely tell where it falls short.

There are things that I think the OnePlus 5 does better than the Galaxy S8, especially with regards to the general performance and the software experience. But for me, the latter is the more well-rounded device when you take everything into consideration even if that means having to deal with a higher price tag.

Which smartphone would you pick between these two? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

4
Jul

Want to make Android notifications sync with Windows 10? Just install Cortana


We love platform convergence, because it allows us to sync our devices in newer and more useful ways. Take the growing compatibility between mobile Android devices and Windows 10. Where once the two were barely on speaking terms, you can now make Android notifications and alerts sync.

In practical terms, this means that you can keep track of everything happening on your smartphone while you work on Windows 10 — without glancing down at your phone screen every time. The key is Cortana, the digital assistant on Windows 10 and Xbox One; her capabilities include syncing between devices, and we’ll run you through exactly how to do so.

Step 1: Download Cortana for Android

While there are third party apps available that allow some Android-to-Windows communication, the easiest option is to let Cortana’s official app do that work. To do that, you need Cortana on your Android phone, so head over to the Google Play store on your phone and download the Cortana app. It’s free, and compatible with most modern Android mobile devices. However, if you are using your Android phone in a BYOD scenario, make sure that your company is okay with you downloading a voice assistant and linking accounts this way.

Step 2: Sign in

Once Cortana is installed, you should transition over to a welcome screen. If not, try restarting the Cortana app to kick it into motion. You will see a friendly, “Hi!” from Cortana, and then she will ask you to sign into your Microsoft Account.

You will need your own Microsoft Account and password for this step. If you aren’t sure if you have a Microsoft account or not, remember that it will be the same sign-in you used for past Windows/Xbox services. If you haven’t started using Windows 10 yet and don’t have a history with Microsoft, creating a login is very easy.

After you sign in, you will see an option to allow Cortana to actively listen for her “Hey Cortana” activation line in case you want to give commands to your Android device. This depends on your current use of voice assistants. Most Android devices have an “Ok Google” command option these days, and if you are already used to that, then there isn’t much of a reason to adopt a new voice assistant. But if you prefer Cortana to Google’s voice assistant — and there are reasons to do so — then check away and move onto the next step.

Step 3: Sync basic notifications

Cortana will now begin to access information on your Android device, getting up to speed on your data. Yes, this does mean that Microsoft will have access to your Android data. You can read more about what Cortana does with your data here, and what sort of privacy you can expect.

When this is finished, go to the top left of your screen and select the three-lined button there. Here, look for an option that says, “Sync notifications.” Choose it, and that will take you to a another settings menu that will show you the basic notifications you can enable. Any of these Android notifications that are enabled will also show up on Windows 10 in your little Cortana alert box. The basic phone stuff is all here — low battery warnings, text alerts, missed calls, and so on, so pick which alerts you want to receive.

Step 4: Choose specific syncing for app alerts

If you continue down the Sync notifications list, you will notice an option for App Notifications Sync (or possibly Choose what apps to sync, depending on your setup). Choose this and you can sync the notifications for any compatible Android app from a list. Chances are good that you have a lot of these apps, so take some time to go through them all and make sure only the important apps are selected. You probably don’t want any random browser notifications or additional calendar alerts, but if there are apps you’d like Android notifications from, swipe right to activate them and you will receive those alerts too.

Step 5: Hop over to Windows and restart

Head to your Windows 10 computer and restart it: It’s not always necessary, but it’s a good idea to ensure smooth syncing. After you login again, make sure that Cortana is showing notifications from your Android phone. After that, you are all set! Note that you may be able to increase compatibility with features like the Microsoft Phone Companion.

Reminder: If it isn’t working, check your Windows 10 Cortana settings to make sure that Cortana can access information from other devices.




4
Jul

Common Moto G5 Plus problems and the solutions to fix them


The Moto G5 Plus might not blow you away with its outward design, but it more than makes up for that with its cheap price, fast performance, and the Android OS. That’s why it made our best budget phones and best phones for kids lists. That said, the phone has been around since March, and in the months since release, owners have run into their share of Moto G5 Plus problems.

If you’re going to upgrade to the Moto G5 Plus soon, you’d do well to scroll down and read up on the issues — both with the software and hardware — that people have had since its release, and the solutions available that will make being a G5 Plus owner easier. Once you’re done with that, be sure to learn what your phone can really do with our Moto G5 tips and tricks, and take your first steps to becoming a G5 Plus know-it-all.

Bug: Gestures and motion controls not working

A handful of people on the XDA Developers forums have reportedly been having problems getting their phones to respond to their gestures and motions, such as twisting twice to launch the camera or chopping twice to turn on the flashlight. Some have noticed that their phone’s failure to react correctly is inconsistent, making it difficult to point to the cause of the problem.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart the phone and try using gestures and motions again.
  • XDA Developers forums user MartinPowa said they managed to temporarily fix the problem by initiating a call. After ending the call (receiving doesn’t need to answer), gestures work as intended, albeit for a short time.
  • Back up anything precious and perform a factory reset by going to Settings > Backup & reset > Back up my data > Factory data reset > Reset phone > Erase everything.
  • Reach out to Motorola Support, as it may be a hardware issue you’re unable to handle on your own. You may be able to get repairs or a replacement device.

Problem: Auto-brightness doesn’t correctly adjust brightness

People on this XDA Developers forum thread have taken to discussing their issues with the brightness on their Moto G5 Plus. Specifically, the Adaptive Brightness setting does not adjust the brightness of the display automatically, nor does it do so in a way that suits the user’s current location and lighting situation.

Workaround:

  • A couple of users decided to forgo using Adaptive Brightness and have instead manually adjusted the brightness to their liking at Settings > Display > Brightness level.

Potential solutions:

  • One user found success after going to Settings > Display > Brightness level and turning off Adaptive Brightness. Afterwards, they maxed out the brightness slider, then re-enabled Adaptive Brightness.
  • Some others users suggest keeping Adaptive Brightness on, but adjusting the brightness slider to be at 75 percent of maximum brightness.

Annoyance: Internal noises

Still on the XDA Developers forums, a number of Moto G5 Plus owners have noticed clicking sounds coming from the inside of their phones when they gently shake it. This has prompted many to wonder what the noise could be, and if it’s anything to be concerned about.

Potential solutions:

  • Users in the thread linked above have suggested that the noises could be caused by the SIM tray, SD card, or the Camera lens. If you believe it to be the SIM tray or SD card, remove both (found on top of the phone) and gently shake the phone again. If it’s neither of those, it may be either of the camera lenses. It should be noted that not everyone considers this a huge deal, or a very noticeable sound.
  • If you believe this to be a hardware issue that could affect your phone’s performance, reach out to Motorola Support to get repairs or a replacement phone.

Problem: SD Card Corruption

There are multiple threads on the Lenovo forums and the XDA Developers forums that are full of people who have had their SD cards corrupted during their time with the Moto G5 Plus. The corruption, or the message stating the card is corrupted, typically occurs after the phone has been turned off and on with the SD card still inside. Files have sometimes been deleted, and in most cases, the cards are actually fine when accessed via a PC. Unfortunately, there’s no specific brand or SD card size that is most commonly affected. If you decide to buy a new card, check out our guide on how to choose the best Micro SD cards for your smartphone.

Workaround:

  • Since the problem seems to occur after the phone is turned off, never turning the phone off may be the best way to avert the issue until a definitive fix comes along, such as a software update. This means keeping an eye on your battery life to make sure it doesn’t turn off after hitting 0 percent, and cutting down on how often you need to restart your phone.
  • Alternatively, you can remove the SD card prior to turning the phone off and reinsert it after the phone has been powered on.

Potential solutions:

  • Make sure your card is formatted to work as Internal storage by going to Settings > Storage > SD Card > Options (three vertical dots in top-right corner) > Storage Settings > Format as internal >  Erase & format. To format the card to work as Portable storage, follow the same steps, but choose Format as portable instead. Make sure you back up anything that’s on it before you format!

Issue: Phone won’t stay connected to Wi-Fi

Reddit and Lenovo’s own forums both have threads containing a number of G5 Plus owners who can’t seem to maintain a Wi-Fi connection. This is one of the most frustrating Moto G5 Plus problems you can encounter. The problem is the same for everyone: While using their phone, they suddenly and unexpectedly lose their connection to their network. Sometimes the connection returns, but only for a brief time before disconnecting again. Other devices connected to Wi-Fi, as well as the router itself, all work just fine.

Potential solutions:

  • The easiest thing to try first is to go to Settings > Wi-Fi, then tap the Wi-Fi slider off and on.
  • Reset your network settings by going to Settings > Back up and Reset > Reset network settings > Reset.
  • Some people have suggested turning off Wi-Fi Scanning. You can do this at Settings > Scroll down to Location > Options (three vertical dots icon) > Scanning > Turn off Wi-fi Scanning.
  • On both threads, a few people fixed their Wi-Fi issue by accessing their router settings and changing the channel option from Auto to 10.
  • A future update for the G5 Plus may deal with this particular problem.

Glitch: Error message when trying to launch Camera app

Moto G5 Plus users have a 12 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front camera at their disposal, but many others users can’t enjoy the same features, as they’ve been unable to even launch the app. When attempting to do so, they are sometimes met with the message, “Camera error. Please restart camera.”

Potential solutions:

  • As explained by the given error message, simply close the camera and try launching it again. The problem itself is not consistent and sometimes the error never reappears.
  • A Motorola support member on the Lenovo thread linked above recommended going to Settings > Apps > Camera > Storage > Clear Data, then trying the app again.
  • Start the phone in Safe Mode and try the camera again. If the camera works just fine, it’s likely that a third-party app is the source of the problem, and may need to be deleted or have its app permissions changed (Settings > App > the app you wish to change > Permissions). To enter Safe Mode, press and hold the Power button until the Power off option appears > press and hold Power off until the Reboot to Safe Mode window appears > tap OK.
  • Perform a factory reset and try the camera again.
  • Reach out to Motorola support to get repairs or a replacement phone.

Problem: Poor voice call quality

There are quite a few threads on the Lenovo and XDA Developer forums that are more than enough to prove that many Moto G5 Plus owners are unhappy with the audio quality of their voice calls. For some, audio cuts in and out, while others have said the audio is garbled or people sound “digitized.” Some think the problem lies with Verizon, as the name of the first linked thread suggests, but not everyone affected has named Verizon as their carrier.

Official solution:

  • On page 33 of this thread, Motorola Admin MattForumsMngr said a patch is in the works for this particular issue. As of June 26, the patch has not been released.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart the phone and try the call again.
  • Disabling Enhanced 4G LTE Mode has been mentioned multiple times as the way to improve or fix the poor audio. This can be done at Settings > More (Under Wireless & Networks) > Cellular Networks.
  • Disable HD Voice at Settings > Advanced Calling. Tap the Advanced Calling switch/toggle in the top-right corner to turn it on, then tap HD Voice to disable this feature. It’s disabled when there is no check mark. It has also been suggested that Verizon customers need to disable HD Voice through the Verizon site in addition to doing it within the phone’s settings.




4
Jul

Everything you need to know about Ethereum


If you follow tech or financial news, you’ve probably seen the name “Ethereum” popping up over the last couple years, often in connection with bitcoin. Ethereum is a rising star in the world of cryptocurrencies, entirely digital forms of currency that grew in popularity after the creation of bitcoin by a person or group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Demand for Ethereum is so high that it may even be driving up the price of graphics cards, as miners try to generate as much currency as they can. What is Ethereum exactly, and what does it mean for the future of cryptocurrency (and maybe society)? Here’s the rundown.

To start — what is a cryptocurrency?

People often refer to Ethereum as a cryptocurrency, but that isn’t precisely true. It is a platform that allows individuals to conduct transactions and draw up contracts, using a currency called “ether.” To understand what distinguishes Ethereum from a cryptocurrency like bitcoin, it helps to understand what a cryptocurrency is, as well as the concept of a blockchain.

A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency created through encryption. A cryptocurrency has no physical form — like a banknote or coin — and it is not issued by a central bank or governmental authority. Units of cryptocurrency exist as data on the internet, and are created and managed through something called a blockchain.

A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger, shared amongst any number of computers. When transactions occur, they are recorded in blocks; in order for these blocks to go into the ledger, they must be validated by a certain number of computers on the blockchain network. Crucially, the ledger exists, in the same form, for everyone on the network. Anyone can can look at to see a complete history of every transaction that has occurred, and any changes would be visible to everyone.

The individuals who validate the transactions — which they do by having their computers solve complex computational problems — are called miners. Mining is a surprisingly intense activity, as our guide explains, that requires powerful hardware and a lot of planning. As a reward for their help in validating blocks, miners are given rewards. This is typically a specific cryptocurrency; Bitcoin miners receive bitcoin, while Ethereum miners receive ether.

When you send someone an amount of cryptocurrency, a digital signature is created to authenticate the transaction. Your public key is essentially your “address.” When someone sends you funds, they send it to your public key. When you send funds, you use your private key, which is essentially the password that grants you access to your funds, and a transaction message to create a digital signature. Miners use this signature to verify the transaction, and a new signature will be generated for every individual transaction, so the transaction can’t be repeated.

Why is this important?

Digital transactions have, historically, required third parties, such as banks, to authorize or validate the transaction. This is because money, when digital, is essentially a file, which could be copied and reused. But these more traditional intermediaries typically don’t work for free. Banks and other authorities require individuals to play in their sandbox, and pay whatever fees they demand.

Cryptocurrencies are all about skirting around financial institutions and authorities, but they still need some way to track when and how currency moves through transactions, so as to avoid problems like double spending. The currency would be useless if anyone could just create copies of their units.

Blockchains allow for peer-to-peer transactions, with no need for a third party to participate. They are inherently secure; if any data in the block were changed, computers on the network would need to revalidate it, discouraging tampering. In theory, cryptocurrencies are safe from seizure by authorities. Because they are stored nowhere in particular, and can only be accessed by a person with the private key, it would be incredibly difficult for even a government to seize them.

The broad strokes of a blockchain apply to Ethereum just as they do to bitcoin, but the two products have different goals. As mentioned, bitcoin is strictly a digital currency, designed to function as a means of payment. Ethereum takes a grander approach; it functions as a platform through which people can use ether tokens to create and run applications and, more importantly, smart contracts.

Ethereum focuses on “smart contracts”

What is a smart contract? It is a contract written in code, which the creator(s) upload to the blockchain. Any time one of these contracts is executed, every node on the network runs it, uploaded to the blockchain; thus, it is stored in the public ledger, theoretically tamper-proof.

Smart contracts are essentially structured as If-then statements; when certain conditions are met, the program carries out the terms of the contract.

As an example, say you want to rent a car from a service that uses Ethereum. A smart contract is generated, stipulating that if you send the required amount of funds, then the service will send you a digital key to unlock the car. The process is is carried out on the blockchain, so when you send the ether tokens, everyone on the network can see that you did so. Likewise, when the rental service sends you the key to unlock the car, everyone will see it. In this scenario, the contract might state that if the service does not send you the key, the tokens are refunded.

Since every computer on the network is keeping track of this transaction through the digital ledger, there is no way to tamper with it; if someone altered the details of the contract, every copy of the digital ledger would note this.

Every program on Ethereum will use a distinct amount of processing power, and since the program must be run by the nodes, it is important to keep superfluous activity to a minimum. This is why every contract and program on Ethereum is given a cost in “gas.” Gas is a measurement of how much processing power the program will require, and the higher the gas requirement, the more ether tokens the user will need to spend.

One of the commonly cited advantages of smart contracts is that there is no need for “middlemen” like lawyers or notaries. In theory, this means that you can carry out transactions without the waiting times inherent to paper filings, and without paying fees to whomever would typically oversee such a transaction. This is particularly important for people living in countries where the legal system is corrupt, or woefully inefficient.

Of course, the automation means that, if something goes wrong — if, for example, there is a bug in the code of the smart contract — the blockchain will still carry out the terms of the contract, which could be problematic.

A scandal involving The DAO — a decentralized autonomous organization — serves as a case study in how smart contracts can go wrong. The DAO was essentially a leaderless investment fund; members invested ether, gaining tokens that allowed them to vote on how to invest the DAO’s funds. As CoinDesk explains, the DAO was built through a series of smart contracts.

However, a vulnerability in the DAO’s code allowed one user to funnel millions of dollars worth of ether into a child DAO. A writer for Forbes compares the process to embezzlement, but notes that, because the DAO’s contract allowed for it to happen, it was not illegal; the user was working within the confines of the code.

What does it mean for the future?

In its short time in the spotlight, Ethereum has cast an enormous shadow. It is trading at around $300 as of June 28, 2017, and has grown by around 3600 percent in 2017, according to Business Insider. The platform has already attracted massive corporations like JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft, who are among the more notable members of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which aims to provide “Resources for businesses to learn about Ethereum and leverage this groundbreaking technology to address specific industry use cases.”

That bodes well for Ethereum’s usage in the business world, but true believers see the platform as something more than a tool for corporation; they see it as a way to decentralize the internet, and make it more democratic.

In an interview with Wired, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin lays out his view of how Ethereum will disrupt the traditional power structures of the world:

“I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent. Because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already.”

Smart contracts could free individuals from the constraints of the legal system and big business. However, technology enthusiasts often promise such utopian futures; in reality, just as social media has helped the spread of fake news, Ethereum and the automated, decentralized internet it seeks may have unintended consequences, as the DAO hacking indicates. Like other cryptocurrencies, ether is prone to wild fluctuations. While Ethereum has been riding high in 2017 for the most part, it suffered a flash crash in June, a drop which some think may have been exacerbated by false rumors of Buterin’s death. Whether Ethereum is sturdy enough to survive long term, or an ephemeral trend, remains up in the air.




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