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28
Dec

Darktable, the free Lightroom alternative, is available for Windows


Windows users that don’t want to fork over cash for a RAW photo editor and digital asset manager like Lightroom now have access to a free alternative. Darktable, a free photo editor and asset manager, recently updated to 2.4.0 and brought a Windows version, along with expanding the earlier options for Mac and Linux.

Darktable is an open-source software similar to Lightroom with tools for organizing files and processing RAW images. And while the free software has been around since 2009, bringing in a new developer, Peter Budai, allowed the system to expand to Windows platforms as well. After testing a beta version this summer, the official Windows version is now available, though developers note a few shortcomings, including no printing options and some buggy TIFF file management.

Like the Mac and Linux versions, Darktable for Windows includes tools for non-destructive editing and organizing large photo libraries. As an open-source platform, Darktable previously didn’t have a Windows version because there wasn’t a developer willing to make the modifications and keep the program current. With a new programmer willing to work on the system, the open-source platform was able to expand to a third operating system.

While Windows users now have a version to install, the Mac and Linux versions just got an upgrade as well. The latest version includes a haze removal tool that can help remove fog and similar distractions. The contrast slider also has a wider range, developers said, and for local adjustments, a mid-tones option was added. Contrast can also now be adjusted through a new local Laplacian filter, a new module that allows photo editors to adjust the detail, highlights, shadows, and mid-tones separately.

A number of other changes allow more control over colors, including support for channel blend modes while using the RGB or Lab color spaces. Another change allows for automatic color adjustments inside the tone curve tool.

Other improvements add support for additional camera file types and profiles, while some tools will see a speed improvement with the update. Other adjustments fix previous bugs in the program.

While open source means Darktable is free to download, like other open-source programs, Darktable isn’t going to offer identical tools and performance of the similar paid programs. One example is that open source tends to be a few years behind in adding new features — for example, the new haze tool that just because available this month has been around in Adobe Lightroom and Camera RAW since 2015.

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28
Dec

The Computer History Museum will open source Apple’s Lisa OS in 2018


Before the first Macintosh and the first Windows PC, Apple released a desktop computer known as the Lisa which ran its own specialized operating system. Soon, enthusiasts will be able to pick apart its source code to see exactly what was going on under the hood.

Al Kossow, a software curator for the Computer History Museum, took to a Google Groups discussion board in order to give Lisa enthusiasts an update on the project. “Just wanted to let everyone know the sources to the OS and applications were recovered,” he wrote.

Kossow was able to convert this code to the end of line conventions associated with the Unix programming language and has submitted the results to Apple for review. If all goes well, the Computer History Museum expects to release the code to the public in early 2018.

Of course, before that happens, Apple needs to make sure that an open-source release won’t cause any problems. Kossow suggested that the only thing he feels will be omitted is the American Heritage dictionary that was included in the original release as part of the LisaWrite application’s spell-checking functionality.

The Lisa was a groundbreaking system for its time, as one of the very first computers to adopt a graphical user interface, as well as support for a mouse peripheral, and access to a file system. Both Lisa and the earliest iterations of Windows owe a significant debt to the pioneering work carried out at the Xerox PARC lab, a fact that would contribute to subsequent hostilities between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

The original Lisa computer cost $25,000 at launch when adjusted for inflation, according to Gizmodo. Despite later, cheaper revisions, it was not a huge success, which led to Jobs being removed from the project and placed on the Macintosh team.

The Mac line flourished and formed the basis for the computers that remain a key part of Apple’s output, while the Lisa range died off within a matter of years. However, it’s still an important chapter in the early history of computing, so it’s good to see the operating system being preserved in this manner.

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28
Dec

Free vending machines for homeless people are coming to the U.S. in 2018


Whether it’s 24-hour stores with no queues or Amazon deliveries so fast that items arrive almost before you’ve ordered them, there is no doubt the retail market has been streamlined in recent years. But what about applying some of that same 24/7 magic to helping homeless people who sleep on the streets?

A charity in the United Kingdom is trying to do exactly that by testing special vending machines that dispense essential items like water, food, and clothing to people with nowhere to go at night. The free-to-use service is the work of Nottingham-based Action Hunger.

“We’ve developed vending machines that permit 24/7 access to basic necessities, including water, fresh fruit, energy bars and sandwiches, and socks, gloves, sanitary towels, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, and foil blankets,” Action Hunger founder Huzaifah Khaled told Digital Trends. “Access to the machines is exclusively permitted to those in need, and items can only be vended with the use of a special key card that Action Hunger issues. The key cards are disseminated by our partner organizations in each city, which tend to be homeless shelters and local outreach centers, as they have an exhaustive and in-depth knowledge of the local landscape.”

These key cards can be used to get up to three items per day, a number that Action Hunger hopes will enable people to get some help, without becoming too reliant on the vending machines. The non-perishable contents of the vending machine come from donations, while most of the fresh food is being supplied by redistribution organizations. In order to keep the key cards active, individuals must check in with their regular homeless shelter on a weekly basis.

“I conceived of the idea after being struck by the rising homeless population across the U.K.,” Khaled continued. “It’s a terribly sad state of affairs, which inspired me to think of a solution that would contribute to alleviating the stresses of being homeless, and encourage regular contact with shelters, which is crucial to ending homelessness. I’ve spent the last year working closely with homelessness services to develop my idea into an organization.”

At present, the first machine is being tested in Nottingham, with a plan to expand to other major cities including Manchester, London, Birmingham, and Brighton next. “We’ll be installing machines in the United States from February 2018,” Khaled said. “New York will receive the first machine, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle will follow. We’ve had a deluge of interest from many cities across America, and we’re working hard to reach as many people as possible. We’re also exploring locations across wider Europe.”

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28
Dec

Why 2017 was the best year for smartphones ever


There are vintage years for everything, and hours can be spent debating what was the best year for movies, wines, music, fashion, cars, video games, and so much more. We’re here to end any conversations about the best year for smartphones, should such a geeky chat take place. It’s very simple — the answer is 2017.

Over the past 12 months we’ve seen more desirable, better equipped, better looking, and downright fabulous smartphones than ever before. Perhaps even better, is that for once it doesn’t matter how much money you want to spend.

2017 has been an astonishing year for phones.

Now we’ve made that statement, it’s time to back it up with some hard facts. Here are the phones that have got us all hot under the collar this year: LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8, Huawei P10, LG V30, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, HTC U11, Apple iPhone X, Google Pixel 2, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, OnePlus 5T, and the Honor 7X. These are all fabulous smartphones, but the list doesn’t stop there.

Also out in 2017 were phones including the Galaxy S8 Active, the iPhone 8 Plus, the Moto X4, and the HTC U11 Life. All still brilliant, and when an iPhone makes an also-ran list, you know it has been a bumper year. We’re not done. Also consider phones not officially launched in the U.S., such as the Xiaomi Mi A1 and the Mi Mix 2, the Nokia 8, and the Honor 9. If you purchased any one of these devices this year, you’ve bought a winner.

Debate winning points

But wait. Anyone who has debated whether Star Wars made 1977 a good or bad year for movies, will know these things are rarely won with a simple list. If 2017 has been an astonishing year for phones, and some misguided soul actually needs convincing, you must be able to explain why. Luckily, evidence is on your side. Here are the three big reasons why 2017 phones have impressed us so much.

Essential Phone (Photo: Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends)

Perhaps the main reason why this year has been so special is it’s the first in a long while that phones have visually altered in design, due to the widespread introduction of the 18:9 aspect ratio screen and the minimal bezels that surround it. Not since the introduction of phablets have we seen such a radical change in the way phones look; but unlike phablets, the design trend makes big-screen devices easier to hold and more usable for everyone. After years of messing around with thinner, lighter, bigger, smaller, but still identically-shaped oblongs, we’ve got a new style of phone that actually makes the device better to use. Feel free to clap.

The phone in your hand now looks futuristic. How about the camera? If 2016 hinted at how cool dual-lens cameras could be, 2017 proved it in spades. The Huawei P10 with Leica’s help set a high bar early on, a challenge met and even beaten by Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, and even Huawei itself with the Mate 10 Pro. However, LG and Google proved amazing cameras didn’t need to all be the same. LG’s wide-angle cam is almost unique in the industry, and all the better for it, while Google shows what can be done with a single high-quality lens and some very special software.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is in 2017 you didn’t have to buy a very expensive phone from one or two manufacturers to get a brilliant, show-stopping phone. If you’ve got $800 or more, then the choice borders on the impossible, because all the phones we’ve mentioned at this price are fantastic. Spend around $500 and you’ll get the OnePlus 5T or the LG G6 — two wonderful phones. Spend less than $250 and you’ll get the Honor 7X, or the Xiaomi Mi A1. Again, superb choices. All the other phones we listed are spread somewhere in-between all these prices, which means that almost regardless of how much you’re prepared to spend, the device you choose will be great. Not just acceptable. Great.

Even the disappointing phones are really good

Two phones illustrate how tough the competition has been in smartphone world this year: The Razer Phone and the Essential PH-1. They both have unbelievable specs, unique selling points, and eye-catching designs, plus they’re made by companies with strong credentials and dedicated fans. Yet they both received reviews that came down hard on their respective negative points. Are they bad phones? No, not at all and perhaps in other years they may not have been treated so harshly. In 2017, even the slightest negative point saw a device defeated, because there are so many awesome alternatives.

Razer Phone (Photo: Andy Boxall/Digital Trends)

2017 was not the year to come out with a half-baked phone that depended on future software updates to come close to what else was on offer.

Android itself matured considerably with Android 7.0 Nougat at the end of 2016, and subtly enhanced again with Android 8.0 Oreo. On the Google Pixel 2, Android is a real joy. Clean, simple, and logical, with strong standard apps and absolutely no slow down. Apple delivered something similar with iOS 11, which is enjoyed by way more phone owners than Google’s latest software version. If there’s a failure in 2017, it’s the continued lack of Android software updates for anyone who didn’t buy a Pixel phone. Solution: Buy a Pixel 2.

Wait, what about (insert other year here)?

Sure, there are always going to be the wantonly contrarian who disagrees. In fact, some may be able to make a strong case, as there are a few other years to consider as phone history high points. However, it’s not 2016. Let’s get that out of the way first. Yes, it gave us the Pixel, iPhone 7 Plus, and Galaxy S7. But it also gave us the Galaxy Note 7, the LG G5’s sad failure, and other experimental go-nowhere phones like the Turing and Sirin Labs devices. If you bought one of the first three phones, you were safe. Anything else was a bit of a risk.

In 2017 you didn’t have to buy a very expensive phone.

How about 2010? This was a good year for smartphone tech. Before we even start with phones, 2010 was the year 4G LTE started to really come alive with dedicated phones like Samsung’s Epic 4G and the HTC Evo. The Apple iPhone 4 came along with its brand new design, the Google Nexus One went on sale, and you could buy a Palm Pre. A good year, but one that was also filled with complete dreck from an industry entirely lacking in imagination. BlackBerry still had a Bold and a Pearl on sale, Windows Phone still existed, and everyone from Motorola to Samsung made phones with ugly slide-out keyboards.

We could go on, right back to 2006, when we were spoiled for choice with the Sony Ericsson K800i, the Motorola Razr V3, BlackBerry’s early consumer push, and the LG Chocolate. Plus, the Nokia N95 was announced. We won’t bother though. No way will any year beat this one for pure, awesome, difficult-to-decide smartphone choice.

Where does that leave 2018?

Poor 2018. It’s like having The Rolling Stones play before you, or Jerry Seinfeld as the warm-up act. You’d better be damn good once you’re up on stage. It’s safe to assume all our favorite phones from this year will get sequels. The Samsung Galaxy S9, the Huawei P11, and the 2018 Apple iPhone range are already being discussed in rumors. Will the be better than the 2017 crop? Only time will tell, but we’re excited to see just how small bezels can get, how much artificial intelligence changes our devices, and if we actually get an on-screen fingerprint sensor or not.

While we’re always excited for new phone releases, this is one year where we are not looking ahead because the big-name new products that came before them were disappointing. It’s quite the opposite, and for once can truly say there’s no burning need to wait for 2018’s phones if you’re considering buying a new one now. Which one should you buy? We’ve got a list of the best ones; but here’s a secret: They’re all worth your money, and you’ll love whichever one you choose. Thank you 2017, for making it possible to say that.

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28
Dec

Avoid costly errors with this great deal on a Grammarly one-year subscription


We write so much around these parts that it’s easy for a few grammar errors to slip through. Whether you’re writing an article for a major website like Android Central or a business email to a boss or a colleague, we all want to be sure our writing comes off as professional and clean. But mistakes are bound to happen, and that’s why it’s handy to have an extra set of eyes looking over your writing.

Grammarly is that extra set of eyes for millions of people around the world. It’s like your personal editor that scans your writing and corrects all the mistakes in your writing — from a simple typo to complex grammar errors. Grammarly puts spellcheck to shame by catching contextual errors, helping to improve your vocabulary, and suggesting style improvements for your writing.

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If you feel like your writing could use the Grammarly bump, Android Central Digital Offers has a great deal on a one-year subscription to the full suite of Grammarly features. Not only will you write mistake free across popular services and apps like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and more across all your devices (iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows supported), but you’ll also get great features like plagiarism detection that scans billions of web pages and a weekly progress report to show how Grammarly has helped your writing improve.

A yearly subscription to Grammarly is usually priced at around $139.95, but thanks to this great deal from Android Central Digital Offers you can get your subscription for just $69.98 — that’s 49% off the regular price! Never write a poorly written email again with a little help from Grammarly!

28
Dec

How I proposed to my girlfriend using Android


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An Android love story.

This Christmas was probably the most memorable one of my life so far. I got to spend time with lots of family members, eat some bomb food, and just take it easy for a couple of days. Oh, and I also proposed to my girlfriend.

My name’s Joe Maring, and I’ve been the News Editor here at Android Central since September 25, 2017. It’s an incredibly busy job, and while I wear a lot of different hats when I’m not working, my most important one is being Kennedy Weston’s boyfriend (er, now fiancé).

Kennedy and I have known each other since we were two, and we even grew up across the street from one another. We’ve been friends since then, and we stopped being knuckleheads and finally started dating in May of 2015. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it’s been a fantastic couple of years and some of the best of my entire life.

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Kennedy and I 😊

Throughout our relationship, Kennedy’s made it incredibly obviously that she wanted to get married. From secretly (but not really) writing her name as “Kennedy Maring” in our ECO 202 class on a piece of paper to straight up asking “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MARRY ME,” she’s ever so subtly been throwing hints my way for a good few months.

I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to finally pop the question, and seeing as how our favorite holiday is Christmas, I decided that it would be the ideal day to ask. I initially toyed with the idea of getting her a kitten and tying a ring to its collar, and while cute, I thought it was a bit too cheesy. After a bit more brainstorming, I ultimately decided that I wanted to incorporate technology into the proposal somehow, seeing as how it’s been such a big part of my life. After talking with my friend Patrick Campanale, we came up with the perfect idea.

The kitten idea was cute, but I had something better in mind.

I’d been planning on getting Kennedy a Pixel 2 for Christmas, and I mentioned to Pat that I was thinking about making a custom wallpaper that had “Will you marry me?” on it, so she’d see the question as soon as she turned on the phone. Doing this would involve setting the phone up, choosing the wallpaper, and then having Kennedy turn on a phone that had already been set up. It would work, but it wouldn’t be all that graceful.

However, Pat then reminded me that he was the leader of the team behind CarbonROM. As such, he could whip together a special version of the ROM that would allow Kennedy to go through the setup process herself and then see the custom wallpaper after entering all her information. This was a much better idea, but then I asked if we could take things a step further.

joe-kennedy-proposal-2.jpg?itok=QrrVRQVjjoe-kennedy-proposal-3.jpg?itok=yZC0pb8qjoe-kennedy-proposal-1.jpg?itok=kZDhYDHP

The custom setup screen, the response when tapping “no”, and the wallpaper at the end.

Not sure if it would even be possible, I asked Pat if there was any way he could create a custom screen after the initial setup process that would ask the question. Kennedy would enter her Google account, add her fingerprint, etc., and after all that, she’d see another screen asking her if she’d like to marry me. Pat asked his lead developer, Christian Oder, if this is something that we’d be able to pull off, and Chris came back with good news.

After a week or so of putting everything together, Chris had completed the ROM. We spent a few hours one day installing it on Kennedy’s Pixel 2 because I (of course) screwed something up during the whole process, but eventually, we got everything working.

The finished product looked like this.

On Christmas morning, Kennedy and I drove to my parents’ house to open presents with each other. I made sure Kennedy’s Pixel 2 was the last gift that she opened, and after taking off the wrapping paper, she wasn’t all that surprised.

She’d become suspicious of me buying her the phone earlier in the month after I tried making up reasons she shouldn’t buy the phone herself when the Google Store was running one of its many sales on it, but this worked out in my favor. Her guard was down, she wasn’t expecting anything else aside from the phone, and then this happened.

I honestly couldn’t have asked for the whole thing to go any better, and while it did take quite a bit of time and effort, it was beyond worth it. I’ve got a comfy apartment, job of my dreams, good friends, and thanks to Android, a beautiful fiance. ❤️

Special thanks to Patrick Campanale, Christian Oder, the entire CarbonROM team, and my many family members for making this possible. For more information on the technical side of how this all worked, check out CarbonROM’s Gerrit commit here.

28
Dec

How to set up your Gear VR


You got a free VR headset with your new phone! Here’s how you use it.

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Jumping into VR with your new headset is super easy, but there are a few quick things you need to do before having fun in another world. This guide will show you everything you need to do before putting on the headset, so you’re guaranteed to have a good time!

Read more at VR Heads!

28
Dec

Fire TV YouTube app has already stopped working for some users


YouTube will soon officially be removed from the Fire TV, but for some users, the day of reckoning has already come.

At the beginning of December, Google announced that it’d be pulling the YouTube app from Amazon’s Fire TV products. Amazon made a couple piece offerings by reselling Chromecasts and pushing a Prime Video app to Android TV, but even so, it looks like Google is sticking with its decision.

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Google will officially remove YouTube access from Fire TV on January 1, 2018, and some users are now seeing a warning message about this when opening the app that reads “Starting on 1/1/2018, YouTube will not be available on this device. You can continue to enjoy your favorite creators and videos in many other ways. Please visit https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7582560 for a list of devices you can use.”

However, for others, the YouTube app has already stopped working. Along with the warning message that allows you to keep using YouTube until January 1, there’s another message that appears and says “Access YouTube and millions of other websites by using a web browser such as Firefox or Silk.” Below this, you’ll still two options for visiting YouTube.com with either of the two browsers.

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YouTube warning message (left) and redirecting users to web browsers (right)

Cord Cutter News reports that you’ll only be asked to go to YouTube on a web browser if you have one of them installed, and according to AFTVNews, sideloading another version of the YouTube app will allow you to keep using it with the warning message. This suggests that Amazon is the one pushing people to start using the Fire TV’s web browsers right now, but either way, this is still bad news for consumers.

We’re crossing our fingers that Amazon and Google will be able to make amends sooner rather than later and get the YouTube app back on Fire TV, but until then, make sure you’ve got a web browser installed before the beginning of next month.

Amazon Fire TV

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Buy at Amazon

28
Dec

South Korea enacts new cryptocurrency regulations


The South Korean government announced new cryptocurrency regulations today, which led to a 12 percent and eight percent drop in bitcoin and ethereum prices, respectively. After the US and Japan, South Korea is the world’s third largest market for cryptocurrencies. Beginning next month, anonymous cryptocurrency accounts will no longer be allowed under the new legislation and regulators will continually monitor cryptocurrency exchanges going forward. In a statement, the government said, “Cryptocurrency speculation has been irrationally overheated in Korea. The government can’t let this abnormal situation of speculation go on any longer.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the country’s Justice of Ministry might even propose legislation that would shut down exchanges nationwide, but details about how or when that would happen weren’t provided. This is the latest step by South Korea to reign in the frenzy over cryptocurrencies. In September, it banned initial coin offerings.

While interest in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have surged this year, there’s a hefty amount of volatility in the crypto market, which is a risk that the South Korean government is trying to cull with regulation. This month, bitcoin’s price hit an all-time high that approached the $20,000 mark after starting the year around $1,000. And along with large price fluctuations, some cryptocurrency exchanges have also been hit with major hacks — South Korean exchange Youbit filed for bankruptcy after losing $35 million to a hack earlier this month and $72 million in a hack that took place in April.

In its statement today, the South Korean government warned that cryptocurrencies could be “vulnerable to the damage from investment fraud or hacking attacks on exchanges” and Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon said they could “lead to some serious distorted or pathological phenomenon.”

Via: TechCrunch

28
Dec

Softbank acquires large stake in Uber


After months of courtship, it seems that Softbank has finally agreed on an investment deal with Uber. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Japanese titan has succeeded in a bid to snag a large percentage of the ride hailing company’s shares. Uber has tendered shares equal to 20 percent of the company, though the Wall Street Journal speculates that Softbank is will likely acquire 15 percent of that. This values Uber at $48 billion, which is about a 30 percent discount of Uber’s estimated value of $70 billion. The tender offer expires at noon Pacific however, so investors could still change their minds before then.

The offer comes at a critical time for Uber. The company has struggled for months with lawsuits, a CEO takeover, and a host of internal struggles. On top of that, Uber has been losing competition to rivals like Lyft in the US and Grab and Didi Chuxing in Asia. In fact, Softbank is an investor in several of those competitors as well. When asked if that would be a problem for Uber, board member Arianna Huffington said in October that “This is not marriage; this is a business.” A few months ago, Uber agreed to limit the power of former CEO Travis Kalanick in order to sweeten the deal for Softbank.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Softbank deal would entail investing at least $1 billion into Uber, which is meant to assuage fears that the discounted price would lower the value of the remaining shares.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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