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16
Jun

Android Go is the right way for Google to reach its ‘next billion’


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Android Go is finally the OS that Google has envisioned for great cheap phones.

I’ve been looking at the Alcatel 1X for a few days. Any smartphone that checks in at a cool $100 has my attention, and when it’s said to be a pretty darn good one I just have to check it out. I get fascinated when minimal hardware is made to run something as convoluted as Android. I’ve seen Google and other companies try to do it several times before and only Motorola was able to get it right, but this is a new beast: the legendary $100 smartphone.

Quick hit before a fuller review — the Alcatel 1X is the best way to spend $100. Not because of the display or the camera or even the suede finish; it’s because of Android Go. The software on it works and you can have a solid smartphone experience complete with the apps and services you need. You can even add a few that you don’t need but want to have for a little bit of fun. I was happily surprised at how well Android Oreo could run on hardware that sells for less than a good calculator.

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A quick refresher on Android Go is in order here. It’s Android Oreo, complete with all the same Google apps you would find on any Android phone, but everything has been trimmed of every ounce of fat.

Everything that needs to work still works. You can search the web, send a message or email, use Google Maps Go for navigation or anything else you’ve come accustomed to doing on your phone. The apps are just trimmed of extra details and “chrome” (the decorations and borders of controls) so that they all load fast and can run on 1GB of RAM. Android itself has been stripped of anything it doesn’t need for this particular set of hardware and that also cuts extra overhead and makes for a better experience.

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You do not want these apps on your Galaxy S9 or LG V30. This is what it takes to make a phone like the 1X or Nokia 3.1 worth buying, but wouldn’t make much difference on a phone that’s able to load and run the full versions of these apps properly. It’s not as good as the experience you get from your $700-plus phone, but it did cost $600 less.

Android Go is what allows a very low-end phone to give the important part of the experience.

I’ll probably take time to talk more about Android Go and definitely have a review slated for the 1X. I’m just mentioning them because you need to know what I mean when I say Google finally got it right when it wants to try to build a smartphone for the next billion customers. The customers in rural India, Africa, or South America; places that don’t have the infrastructure (yet) for a badass 5G network or the economy to support a market for $900 phones. People in these places need a dependable way to communicate and get some digital help for their everyday lives. They need Android Go.

Flashback a few years ago and I was in a developer session from Facebook about building an experience for the emerging market. “Emerging market” is a kind way to say the third world, where extreme poverty can be the norm for more than a few people and hardly anyone has extra disposable income. These folks still want and need the things a smartphone has to offer the same as we do. For that to happen, Google thinks that a $30 smartphone needs to be built and that means very low-end hardware specs.

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Facebook has a pretty unique method to try and build a social network for that sort of hardware. Part of it is emulating a slow 3G connection and working on it until everything can load from a remote server in about 10 seconds. You certainly wouldn’t be able to load the current Facebook app in 10 seconds over 3G, and they know it. Something new needs built. Something that can give the core experience people want and need without all the extra nonsense that makes it require expensive phones to run well.

Google has always wanted to serve Android to the next billion users, and with Android Go, I think they can pull it off.

I’m not sure what Google did to benchmark Android Go performance and I can’t try using it on 3G because I live in a country that can afford excessive conveniences like LTE. But I can tell you the software is finally ready for that “next billion”. I know it is because I’m holding a $100 phone that can do everything I need a smartphone to do and it’s all because of the software.

We tend to focus on the more extravagant things Google shows us, like AR apps or digital assistants that can make appointments for a haircut. But Google deserves some praise for what they’ve done with Android Go because it will be a tool that helps a lot of people. Well done, Caesar Sengupta and the entire Next Billion team. Very well done.

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16
Jun

Here’s are all the features YouTube Music is still missing


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Google’s newest music service may be shiny and new, but it’s still quite lacking.

Youtube Music is a hybrid music service with a lot of promise and an unparalleled library to tap into. Unfortunately, all that potential is held down by how many things — including very, very basic things — the service and its apps are still missing. YouTube Music is already working on some of the items on this list, and hopefully we’ll be able to check off most of these items in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you’re waiting for YouTube Music to improve before you give it a proper shot, bookmark this article. We’ll update it as the service continues to expand and improve.

  • Playback
  • Library
  • Content
  • Downloads
  • Miscellaneous

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Playback

  • Better audio quality — YouTube Music is currently streaming at the video equivalent of 128 kbps, and while that’s enough to listen to in the car or a crowded mall, audio quality is one of the most basic features of a music service. They don’t need to get the ultra-high quality 1411kps that Tidal and Deezer offer, but most of YouTube Music’s competitors offer 320 kbps streaming. YouTube Music needs to at least match that.
  • “Fill screen” for video mode — YouTube has allowed users of extra-tall screens to zoom videos in and get rid of letterboxed gaps for years. That needs to come to YouTube Music, especially for free users who can only use Video mode.
  • Fully functioning Google Cast integration — YouTube Music is a Google music service and has been one of the four services to integrate with Google Home from day one. That it still cannot cast properly is a travesty. Repeat and shuffle do not work while casting, and play order can randomly change when you begin casting a queue.
  • A block button — Thumbing down individual songs is not enough. Users need the ability to block an album or an artist on YouTube Music. It will help improve algorithms much faster and help users stop going “God, stop suggesting Chris Brown!”
  • Gapless playback or crossfade — Gapless playback is something that most music services struggle with, especially on Android, but now that YouTube Music is chock full of gapless albums, it needs gapless playback. Crossfade would be even better, but gapless playback is required.
  • Home screen widget — Third party music widgets can only take us so far, and YouTube Music needs a home screen widget to go with background playback mode.

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Library

  • Library and playlist sorting — Currently, there is only one way to view any section of your library on YouTube Music: by date added/modified. At the very least, YouTube Music needs an alphanumeric sorting option, and YouTube has confirmed that it is in the works: “We’ll be adding sorting options by at least alphabetical, plus in the future, we will allow users to restrict search to only items in their library.”
  • Liked songs, Vol. 2 — All playlists in YouTube and YouTube Music are limited to 5,000 songs. Currently, once you like more than 5,000 songs, you’ll no longer be able to see and manage some of the older songs you liked in Liked Songs. If YouTube Music instead split at 5,000 songs into a Liked songs, Vol. 2, it could help make Liked songs more manageable.
  • Shuffle All songs in your library — This is one of the most basic music service functions out there, and on YouTube Music, about the only way to do it is to add every song, album, and playlist to one playlist and shuffle it
  • Station management — Once a station slips out of Recently played, the only way to revive it is to search for that exact station again or recreate it from whatever song or album it is based on. Adding a Stations section in Library will allow users to better find and patronize YouTube Music many radio stations instead of always defaulting users to Your mixtape.

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Content

  • Non-artist user pages — We subscribe to plenty of artists in YouTube Music, but there are a lot of non-artist YouTubers that it’d be great to subscribe to in YouTube, and YouTube agrees: “Yes, we plan to enable non-artist channels to both be visible and able to be subscribed to in the future.”
  • Fix search — Many times when looking for an album, you won’t see the album in Album search results, but songs from the album will appear in Song search results. YouTube Music also needs to bring back the official and fan badges in Video search results and needs to better distinguish between international versions of albums that are available in many languages like soundtracks.
  • Seasonal awareness — Please stop putting Christmas music in Your mixtape and Offline mixtape in June. I only liked Baby It’s Cold Outside because I was building my library!
  • Subscriptions and Genres tabs — Hotlist isn’t that hot unless you’re into a few specific genres, but a Genrestab would allow users of all tastes to find more music they like. YouTube Music also needs to steal the Subscriptions tab from big brother YouTube.
  • Play purchased YouTube content — You can buy musicals, musical shorts, and concerts on YouTube via Google Play Movies, but that musical content is blocked from YouTube Music and blocked from background playback in both YouTube apps. Let us listen to that sick Les Mis concert from 2010 with the screen off and add it into our Ultimate Musicals Mixtape.

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Downloads

  • Choose your downloads location — This is in the works, but until SD card users might not be able to see how much space their downloads take up.
  • Ask every time on download quality — It’d be nice to download special videos here and there with video while keeping more pedestrian music videos audio only.
  • Cache while streaming — Cache while streaming is a good way to help build up the number of songs you can hear offline without going through and manually downloading a bunch of albums or playlists. YouTube Music needs to steal it from Google Play Music as soon as possible.
  • Shuffle all downloaded content — The most useful part of Google Play Music’s Downloaded Only Mode is that Shuffle button it puts at the top of the Home page. YouTube Music needs to steal that button, but could also stand to steal the rest of Downloaded Only mode so that the Home page is still useful when you’re offline.
  • Prefer downloaded to streaming — If you download an album/playlist on YouTube Music and start playing it outside the Downloads section of Library, it will stream that music instead of playing the downloaded copy. Once you go offline, it will also stop your music and make you restart your album or queue from the Downloads section.
  • Better offline mode — YouTube Music needs a dedicated offline mode that extends beyond the Downloads section, because you can’t even look at the Library tab or Recently played when you’re offline.

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Miscellaneous

  • Autoplay toggle in Settings — YouTube proper has an Autoplay section in Settings, and YouTube Music needs that, too. Currently, you have to turn off Autoplay from an album or playlist queue that does not have repeat turned on.
  • Lyrics integration — If Google can serve up Baby Got Back’s YouTube video with the lyrics below it in Google Search, it can serve up Lyrics in YouTube Music, too, whether what you’re watching is a lyric video or not. This especially needs to happen when you’re casting YouTube Music to a screen; Spotify does this beautifully and YouTube could do it better.
  • Audio only mode on web — YouTube Music’s now playing interface on desktop is beautiful. Let users see the album art nice and big without having to minimize the player to avoid distracting music videos while working.
  • Casting on web — The only way to cast YouTube Music through its website is to cast the whole tab in Chrome, and however broken casting YouTube Music is, web users need access to it, too.
  • Media key support on web — YouTube Music currently supports very few keyboard shortcuts, even compared to the main YouTube site, and you currently cannot use the media keys on most laptops or keyboards.
  • Android Auto integration — It is hard to understate how important being able to control YouTube Music in the car is. Android Auto support should not be difficult for Google to implement in YouTube Music, and it is essential.

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Your turn

What else do you feel is missing from YouTube Music? What are you waiting for them to add before you make the switch? Tell us in the comments!

16
Jun

What you missed on CordCutters.com for June 16, 2018


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Amazon Fire TV Cube cometh …

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We’ve got a big week ahead, with the impending release of the Amazon Fire TV Cube. On one hand, we pretty much know what to expect — it’s the marriage of an Echo Dot and an Fire TV. But what we don’t yet know is how well it’ll all work together. And do you really want to control that much with your voice? We’ll see.

But that’s what’s next. This is what you might have missed this week on CordCutters.com.

  • Scary headlines about Fire TV malware: Look, the ADB.miner thing is only a problem if you make it one.
  • The 2018 World Cup is under way! The World’s biggest sporting event is under way and easily streamable. We’ve got your full first-round schedule.
  • The best over-the-air streaming box: We put HDHomerun, Tablo and AirTV up against each other. Controversy ensues!
  • What’s new on Amazon Prime Video for July: You can never know what’s coming up too early — we’ve got next months listings ready to go!
  • Should we talk about the weather? It’s strangely harder than it should be to watch The Weather Channel if you’ve cut the cord.
  • Watch out for fake Chromecasts: You’d think Amazon would be better about stopping this sort of thing.

Introducing CordCutters.com

  • The hardware you need
  • All about streaming services
  • What channels are on which service
  • FREE over-the-air TV
  • How to watch sports
  • Join the discussion

Get the latest deals

16
Jun

Summer lawn care and DIY projects get easier with this one-day Greenworks Power Tools sale


Time to make the neighbors jealous.

Today only, select Greenworks 24V Power Tools are on sale at Amazon with prices starting at just $18. If you’re looking to keep your lawn looking nice and trimmed this summer, you do not want to miss out on this one.

greenworks-one-day-sale-june2018-apye.pnAmong the deals on Amazon today include offers like a 12-inch Cordless String Trimmer/Edger for $30, which regularly sells for around $50, and this 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw for $64, saving around $30 off its average price.

Some of these power tools do not come with a battery, which greatly helps you save cash as opposed to some of the bundles which include them. Luckily, today’s sale has a battery on sale in case you’re buying a product which doesn’t come with one; you can pick it up for $37 right now, as opposed to its regular price of up to $70. You can also pick up a battery charger today for $18.

A few of the other great tools on sale include:

  • 90/130 MPH Dual Speed Cordless Blower for $52 (was $83)
  • 8.3-inch Cordless Pole Saw for $77 (was ~$119)
  • Cordless Handheld Vacuum for $67 (was $80)

To get a better look at the products on sale today, make sure to head to Amazon and check out the sale before the night ends.

See at Amazon

16
Jun

To put a quantum computer on your desk, Intel has a plan unlike any other


The future of computing is quantum — or so headlines would have you believe. They’re not incorrect. Yet like the flying car, quantum computing is a technology that’s as elusive as it is enchanting. A computer that can go beyond the simple, binary 0s and 1s of today’s ‘classical’ designs opens a new world of possibility, but the technical hurdles are massive, and no one knows how long it’ll take to overcome them.

That’s not discouraging researchers, however. Quantum computers have reached an important milestone in recent years and piqued the interest of massive companies. Companies you’ve heard of. Companies like Intel, which has shipped Core processors in hundreds of millions of computers across the globe.

An old dog learning some new tricks

Intel may seem an unlikely choice for innovation in quantum computing. Sure, it’s known for its powerful PC processors, but the company’s expertise is concentrated in classic computers built for the x86 instruction set. Intel’s 8086 chip, the first x86 processor, is nearing its 40th birthday. The fundamental underpinnings of Intel’s modern chips harken back to that now-ancient predecessor.

Jim Clarke, Intel’s Director of Quantum Hardware, explained to Digital Trends that the company will continue to lean on past expertise to drive future research, and quantum computing is no exception. During a visit to Intel’s campus, Clarke pulled out a slick, rainbow-like wafer. It looked a lot like those you’ve seen in the news or Intel’s own ads, but this one was different.

Jim Clarke, Intel’s Director of Quantum Hardware, showing off a wafer. Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

“What you see here is a wafer that comes from our 300-millimeter technology line just a few miles down the Ronler Acres campus,” Clarke told us. “We’re doing this wafer with the same technology that we’re using for our advanced chips. And what you see here are basically small spin qubit arrays.”

That’s the company’s quantum computing effort in a nutshell. It wants to advance the technology, just as does Google and IBM, as well as many universities. But Intel has a different approach. It wants to do it with silicon.

“We’re essentially using the same process lines, same tools, same design rules to do this, and that’s an advantage for Intel.”

“There are a total of, I think, roughly 50000 qubits on this wafer,” Clarke explained. “They’re not coupled together so we can’t use them together. But you see the power of using Intel’s advanced process lines. If we can get this technology working we’re going to be making chips that are the same from wafer to wafer, and we’re going to have lots and lots of qubit arrays on any given wafer.”

What Clarke’s talking about is not just production. He’s talking about mass production.

It’s easy to see why Intel would approach the technology with mass production in mind. It’s the only company among its competitors that makes a bulk of its money directly from processor sales. It’s a self-serving goal, to be sure, but one that gives Intel a unique incentive.

There’s many reasons why Google might want to build quantum computer, but selling quantum chips isn’t high on the list. IBM does sell chips, but only to enterprise customers. Intel’s the only horse in the race that might, one day, seek to sell you a quantum computer.

It’s not a crazy idea. As Clarke made clear, “this is running in the same fab that’s doing the cutting edge Core chips. […] With, I’ll say, some different challenges with making the wafers, we’re essentially using the same process lines, same tools, same design rules to do this, and that’s an advantage for Intel.”

Check my qubits, bro

Alright. Intel is interested in building quantum computers with its traditional, mass-production methods, but does that really mean you’ll have a sweet quantum computer under your desk?

Well…maybe.

Top-left, bottom-right: Intel. Top-right, bottom-left: Rich Shibley/Digital Trends.

The big challenge facing quantum computing is the fragility of qubits. Due to the funky nature of quantum mechanics, it’s incredibly easy to disrupt a qubit’s coherence, which makes the whole thing go wrong. Clarke told us even a bit of heat can do it.

“So, what we do is we operate these systems at very cold temperatures,” he said. “We have these refrigerators called dilution refrigerators that are about the size of a 55-gallon drum. And they can get down to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. In fact, we would say they are 250 times colder than deep space.” Hardcore PC overclockers might salivate over such a cooler, but don’t get too excited. An Intel Core i7 wouldn’t work at such low temperatures. It’d likely crack or shatter.

“I’ll leave miniaturization for the next generation, but right now I actually don’t think it’s a problem to have a large system.”

These incredible cooling requirements put obvious limitations on how modern quantum processors operate. You can’t just stick a current quantum rig in a home office. Hell, you can’t even stick one in most labs. It’s a highly specialized field that currently requires highly specialized equipment. Miniaturization will help, to be sure, but the massive apparatuses that are used today won’t fit into a desktop tower overnight. Or perhaps even over the next decade.

Yet not everything about a quantum computer is strange. The device still needs short-term memory, long term-storage, and circuit boards that connect various components together. This additional hardware “just is not at the same part of the refrigerator as that as the quantum chip,” Clarke told us. “In fact, a large quantum chip could very well have a small supercomputer next to it, controlling the information into and out of the actual chip.”

In theory, then, a quantum computer might someday end up looking like today’s desktops, though Clarke certainly wasn’t ready to commit to the idea. He reminded us that today’s computers began life as room-sized devices that accepted input only by punch cards and executed instructions on transistors that were (at least) the size of your thumb. That was over 70 years ago, and it’s really only over the last 20 years that PCs slimmed down to the backpackable size we’re used to today.

“If we think about the first Cray supercomputers in the mid-70s they were probably as large as half this room, and these were the most powerful computers on earth at that time. No one would have thought that close to 40 years later we would have miniaturized these, and more, into our back pockets,” Clarke said. “I’ll leave that miniaturization for the next generation, but right now I actually don’t think it’s a problem to have a large system. If that system is the world’s most powerful computer.”

Freaking out about security

The arrival of quantum computing isn’t universally anticipated with eager acceptance, however. Many modern encryption algorithms, like RSA keys, offer protection, because forcing the algorithm would take billions of years for even the most powerful classical computers. Quantum computing, though, is a different story.

“With RSA keys, we take a number that is the product of two large prime numbers, and you can only access the message or the code or the credit card number if you have both of those prime numbers,” Clarke told us. “That’s actually a very hard calculation to do with a classical computer. […] A quantum computer, because it can access such a large space, could conceivably factor these RSA keys in a very very short time, let’s say a minute.”

That’s unsettling to anyone with an eye for security. The NSA began taking steps to harden security against quantum computing in 2015. To make matters worse, Intel has found itself swamped by a swarm of security vulnerabilities in its chips. Processors were once commonly assumed a relative safe-haven. Many even have “secure enclaves” built-in to offer an additional layer of security against hackers looking to hijack the chip.

Now, that clean reputation has been soiled. Both security experts and consumers are beginning to cast a more skeptical eye on hardware. Does that mean a digital doomsday is approaching? Clarke doesn’t think so.

“Within that the types of algorithms and the requirements for a quantum computer that could do cryptography are actually pretty severe, so we’re probably several years beyond that 10-year timeline to have something that would work for cryptography.”

Ten years is a long time for researchers to prepare for quantum computing’s arrival, and encryption techniques impervious to quantum already exist today.

“An example of a technology that would be quantum resistant would be something like the one-time pads used in World War II or by Cold War spies,” Clarke said.

A one-time pad isn’t a magic pill. Figuring out how to easily share it digitally in a timely manner with minimal overhead won’t be easy – but Intel has researchers working on that problem. Clarke seemed hopeful that new encryption methods will be available before quantum computing becomes common enough to threaten modern encryption.

The next generation

It’s still early days in the development of quantum hardware, but the interest of companies like Google, IBM, and Intel are a clear step forward. Clarke thinks that the company’s experience will give Intel the edge in the race. “We are betting that with Intel’s expertise with the Intel architecture, that sort of expertise at the person level, we can bring those people to Quantum and make headway,” said Clarke.

You’ll have to wait to see the results of the company’s efforts, of course. Clarke spoke of time horizons that covered decades, not years or months. Even the development of top-tier classical processors is a long, tiring business that evades easy solution. It’ll be a long time before you see the Intel Inside label slapped on a quantum chip, but it now feels as likely to happen as not.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Microsoft creates a particle promising a more accurate quantum computer
  • Intel, Microsoft using integrated graphics to thwart next Meltdown-style threats
  • You may never own a quantum computer, but IBM will still let you use one
  • How 20th century check fraud is helping prevent 21st century data theft
  • AMD is working on fixes for the reported Ryzenfall, MasterKey vulnerabilities



16
Jun

Best road trip planner apps


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The weather’s getting warmer, you’ve stocked up on PTO, and your playlist of summer songs is about at capacity which means one thing: It’s road trip season. In other words, it’s time to load up the car, grab your friends, and hit the open road.

Whether you’re planning to camp in the woods or stay in swanky hotels, there are unique aspects to road tripping that require special planning. Unlike vacations, where you’re flying to a single destination, road trips involve preparation such as determining the best route, mapping out your stopover points, finding nearby attractions, and ensuring you’re close enough to gas and roadside services.

Fortunately, there are plenty of mobile apps to help you during the planning phase and once you’re on the road. Here are the best road trip planners, for both iOS and Android-compatible smartphones.

Roadtrippers

Roadtrippers is perhaps the best all-around road trip app, working as a comprehensive planning assistant that offers everything from creating your route to selecting activities and finding lodging. You can book accommodations instantly via the app, which looks similar to a more full0-featured version of Google Maps. Better yet, it’s completely free for anyone to make use of.

To plan a trip, simply enter your final destination and then click on nearby cities and destinations. From here, the app lets you play around with different routes and activity options until you find your favorite. We recommend using the desktop version for the planning portion, as it’s easier to zoom in and out on a bigger map.

Once the route is locked in, you can then search for various types of accommodations including hotels, campsites, vacation rentals, RV spots, and other places to sleep for the night. Additionally, you can scroll for activities to do including Attractions and Culture, Points of Interest, Entertainment and Nightlife, Scenic Drives, and dozens of other sub-categories. Once you’re on the road, switch to the mobile version to search for food, find nearby gas, locate rest areas, find auto shops, or track down other amenities.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy is by far the easiest and most straightforward gas-finding app available. By simply entering your current location, the app shows you up-to-date gas prices within a pre-set local radius. You can sort the resulting stations by price, distance, or price and distance together. There’s also an option to filter stations by whether or not they have certain amenities such as car washes, air pumps, propane fills, restrooms, pay-at-pump features, and 24/7 service hours.

Whether you plan to fill up with regular, mid-grade, premium, diesel, or even ethanol/E85 fuels, GasBuddy clearly lays out which station offers what grade of fuel and at what price. There’s even a map view you can use to zoom out and jump around, viewing gas stations in various parts of the state or country.

Serious savers can join GasBuddy as a member by simply linking their checking account. Once linked, the company then sends a card in the mail which can be used to receive 10 cents off per gallon for the first fill and five cents off per gallon at all future stops. If you’re going to be giving your odometer a workout this summer, GasBuddy is an excellent way to cut down on fuel costs.

Google Trips

Google Trips is a general vacation planner app, however, if you’re going to be hopping from one town to the next, it has plenty of useful features to make the most of each destination.

For instance, searching in the mobile-only app for “things to do” populates a list broken down into tabs such as live music, art galleries, outdoor pursuits, kids activities, and many more. The categories are all location-specific so if you’re in Portland, Oregon, for example, you’ll see options like vintage shopping, indie movies, or made in Portland, whereas if you’re in New York you’ll see tabs like Brooklyn standouts, literary NYC, or Madison Avenue chic.

The app has a similar feature for food and drink choices as well, which includes a summary of what genres of food the city or town is known for and where you can find each type of cuisine. You can save attractions you want to visit in the handy Saved Places tab and there’s a feature called Day Plans that offers suggested itineraries in one, two, and three-day formats.

If you have any reservations, you can forward the emails to your Gmail account and the app automatically syncs them into a reservations tab which allows easy access to confirmation numbers and other info. There’s also a comprehensive Getting Around section that explains what types of public transportation and ride-shares are available, should you choose to park the car for the day, as well as walking and biking paths.

iHeartRadio

When you get tired of looping through the same playlists on Spotify or Pandora, iHeartRadio offers an awesome way to integrate musical playlists with podcasts, news, and local radio stations. The app is connected to over 1,000 different stations throughout the United States which you can live stream anywhere. If you want to search by region, just enter a zip code otherwise you can surf by genre, selecting from music stations (pop, hip-hop, country, jazz, etc), comedy shows, sports stations, political talk radio, and others.

Under the podcasts tab, you can browse for new shows or save a list of your favorites. There’s an extensive selection of choices including popular series like This American Life, Fresh Air, Serial, Pod Save America, Radiolab, and others. The Playlists tab allows you to create your own playlists or surf for music based on mood, activity, decade, genre, and other categories similar to Spotify. You can also save songs and follow artists in your Library.

The basic app is free but in order to use all its features, you must choose a subscription of either $5 for iHeartRadio Plus or $10 for iHeartRadio All Access.

Blink Roadside Assistance

Blink is a wonderfully convenient app that allows you to access immediate roadside service without requiring a membership. If you run into car troubles, simply enter your location like you would with something like Uber or Lyft, and the app immediately sends someone to help you.

The tabs are broken down into Battery, Flat Tire, Tow, Lockout, and Other, where you can ask for things like fuel delivery if you run out of gas. It’s a 24/7 service with nationwide coverage offered in 99.4 percent of all US zip codes. That means you’re covered just about anywhere you go, at any time, be it day or night.

When you first request service, it doesn’t completely commit you to have to receive what you ordered. The app first shows you your options with a price quoted along with an estimated wait time. From there, you can decide if you want to proceed. If you prefer to talk to a human, there’s a telephone icon in the upper righthand corner of the app that connects you to a representative who can answer questions and book services.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best hiking apps
  • 13 best road trip cars, from the practical to the drool-worthy
  • 2018 Cadillac ATS Sedan Review
  • Waze on iPhone just landed on your Ford’s infotainment screen
  • The 100 best iPad apps for your Apple tablet



16
Jun

Here’s what we’re reading, watching, playing, and listening to this week


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How we’re spending our leisure time.

Everyone has a bit of quiet downtime once in a while. Whether you’re sitting quietly at home or trying to relax on a plane or just giving your busy mind and hands a break, it’s important to relax.

A good way to do that is to read a book, listen to some music or watch a movie or show. See what’s caught our attention for the week of June 16th.

Ara Wagoner

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There’s a new season of Tangled coming June 24th, so I’m rewatching the first season and savoring the fun chemistry its killer cast built in the first season. New characters like Flynn’s thieving BFF Lance Strongbow — played by Tony-winner and Hamilton cast member James Monroe Iglehart — and Rapunzel’s attendant/bodyguard Cassandra allowed Zachary Levi to pull out all the stops in Flynn Rider’s comedy, and Mandy Moore shines bright as ever as a Rapunzel struggling with new responsibilities and not-so-new limitations. Sad as I am to hear less of Clancy Brown’s masterful voice, I am happy that we’re leaving behind King Frederic and his overprotective father bit behind. It was too cliché, even for me, and threw a dark cloud over an otherwise sunny season of character growth and magical mystery.

See on Google Play

Marc Lagace

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When you write for a living it can be hard to stay motivated with your own creative writing. I’m also a terrible procrastinator when it comes to using my spare time effectively, so I’ve decided to do two things: shut down all electronics two hours before it’s time for bed (always a smart idea) and use the time to crack open some great resources for creative fiction and screenwriting and write a little bit each day. Here are the three books I’ll be revisiting throughout the summer:

“Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” by Blake Snyder is a book I read during my film studies in and it’s a fantastic entry point for anyone interested in writing a screenplay. Snyder writes in such an accessible and conversational tone as he explains the industry rules for taking your idea for a movie and turning it into a marketable script.

“How Not To Make A Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer” by Roberta Marie Munroe is a great resource if you’ve always kicked around the idea of getting some friends together to make a short film. Written by someone who managed the short film programming at Sundance Film Festival, there’s a lot of valuable information in this books that will help you avoid the big mistakes that plague many amateur filmmakers.

“Writer’s Gym: Exercises and Training Tips for Writers” by Eliza Clark is another fantastic resource for aspiring ficition writers. It’s filled with a ton of valuable interviews with successful writers, along with a ton of great thought experiments and writing exercises designed to help you develop your chops as a fiction writer.

I hope that these recommendations help someone out there dive get a start on that creative project you’ve been putting off!

See at Amazon

Joe Maring

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I’ve been on a podcast kick for the better part of a month now, and this week, my ears have been filled with HowStuffWorks’ Behind the Bastards.

Behind the Bastards dives deep into some of the world’s most infamous people, including the likes of Joseph Stalin, Bill Cosby, Adolf Hitler, and Harvey Weinstein. Host Robert Evans does an excellent job at breaking down well-known events about the individuals, such as Cosby’s many allegations of rape and sexual assault, in addition to little-known-facts like Sadam Hussein once writing a romance novel.

It’s certainly an NSFW podcast as there’s a bit of language and the talking points can get a bit rough, but the conversations are excellent and absolutely worth listening to.

Tom Westrick

Because of someone’s title choice, my mind has been stuck on trashy but awesome 90’s music. This includes Seal, Alanis Morissette, the Cranberries, etc. All talented musicians, all great songs, but also all guilty pleasure. Anyway, here’s Wonderwall

Speaking of the 90’s, news broke this week that The Joy of Painting would return as an audio series, so I started doing what countless other have done and started listening to episodes of that on YouTube to lull me to sleep. It’s… kinda worked, but it also makes me want to grow an afro, buy some brushes and canvas and start making happy little trees.

Elsewhere, I’ve been playing the heck out of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas since the Xbox 360 version now works on Xbox One. I’ve bought this game four times now (PS2, Xbox 360 disk, Android, Xbox 360 digital), and it’s always been worth every penny. No matter how many times I’ve gone through the story, it’s still a great way to kill a few hours at a time.

See at Amazon

Your turn

What are YOU reading, watching, or listening to this week? Let us know in the comments!

Update, June 16, 2018: This is a weekly series where we tell you what we’re into, so check back every weekend!

16
Jun

Action Launcher v37 adds powerful ‘desktop shortcuts’ and Android P UI


Formatting for the Pixel Launcher’s layout is also enabled by default.

The v37 update for Action Launcher is making its way to the Play Store right now, and as always, developer Chris Lacy has a handful of new features for us to geek out over.

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The biggest change this time around is something called “desktop shortcuts.” When enabled, you can hold down on any blank part of your home screen to bring up desktop shortcuts and have quick access to things like your battery usage, open a file manager, and more.

All of the options that show up are completely customizable, and the pop-up box even follows the new UI found in Android P when holding down on the Pixel Launcher desktop.

Changes you make to Action Launcher will now be applied much faster.

Speaking of Android P, Action Launcher v37 also adds the “dock dash” found in Android P Beta 1 and officially supports the final APIs for when Android P is publically released.

Last but not least, Action Launcher v37 also speeds up the time it takes for changes to the app to apply, the unread count icon next to apps now uses less memory and battery, All Apps folders form the v35 update can be moved to the desktop, and the icon scale, grid size, and font from the Pixel Launcher will now be used in Action Launcher by default.

V37 is rolling out to the Play Store now and should be available to download soon.

Download: Action Launcher (free)

16
Jun

Google and T-Mobile merge old with new in Google Assistant phone booth demos


Google is setting up yet another campaign to push the Google Assistant. This time around, the company is teaming up with T-Mobile to install experimental demos in signature T-Mobile stores in Chicago and San Francisco for three months.

The demos aim to blend old tech with new tech — they are styled after phone booths, and inside them, customers will be able to both demo hardware like the LG G7 ThinQ, JBL Pulse 3, and Google Home Mini, and software — the Google Assistant. Of course, once you have experienced Google Assistant, you will be able to buy compatible devices from T-Mobile.

One of the demos is called “Tiny Gym,” and basically involves customers asking Google Assistant to play a workout playlist while customers use resistance bands. “Tiny Kitchen” involves Assistant looking up recipes and setting timers for cooking time. Last but not least is “Tiny Museum,” in which customers can pick up a phone and use Google Lens to learn about paintings and artists featured in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Google says the demos will be running for “about the next three months,” and you can check them out for yourselves at T-Mobile’s flagship stores in Chicago and San Francisco.

Google has been pushing Assistant a lot over the last few months. This isn’t even the first time we have seen the phone booth demos, which first showed up at CES earlier in the year. Then, just a few months ago, the company launched a mini-golf pop-up in New York City, in which each hole was aimed at showcasing what Google Assistant can do in a different room of the house. It’s likely we will see more experiences like this as Google continues to take on the likes of Amazon’s Alexa.

It’s also pretty likely that we will continue to see more and more devices will Google Assistant loaded onto them over the next few years. JBL recently announced the Link Bar, which a sound bar with Android TV and Google Assistant loaded straight onto it. Not only that, but dozens of new phones with Assistant are launched every month — only further growing Google’s ecosystem.

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16
Jun

This diving system lets you stay submerged for 2 hours, no tank needed


Do you want a diving system that bridges the gap between scuba diving and snorkeling, minus the limitations of both? If so, a new Kickstarter campaign could be for you. Described by its creators as the smartest and safest hookah-diving system around, Supa Huka possesses neither the complications of scuba diving nor the restrictions of snorkeling. In its place, you get a device which allows you to dive up to 30 feet underwater for up to two hours on a single charge. No back tank required.

“Our audience is really anyone with a passion for travel, exploration, and creating memorable experiences,” industrial designer and co-creator Adam Pitschke told Digital Trends. “We’ve designed Supa Huka to be simple enough for the average person to use safely and effectively, while enabling more advanced divers to get their diving fix wherever they go, without the hassle of bulky gear and tank rental fees.”

So how does it work? Simple: It’s a sealed lead acid battery-powered device which floats on the surface of the water, with a line connecting to the diver. Fresh air is pulled into the snorkel and pumped down the airline to the regulator, allowing the diver to comfortably breathe underwater for an extended period of time.

The Supa Huka is perfectly sized to be carry-on luggage on an airplane. That suitcase form factor isn’t wasted, either, since it is packed with features including a dive vest with auto-inflate, dual USB charging ports, a low battery strobe to indicate when it’s running out of juice, and space to store personal items such as phone, wallet, and dive goggles. Heck, there is even an embedded solar panel for recharging the battery on the beach between dives.

While we have not had the chance to check this out for ourselves just yet, Supa Huka looks like it has the makings of a brilliant bit of beach gear — whether you’re looking to do some serious underwater photography or maintenance, or just splash around exploring reefs on vacation.

As ever, we offer our usual warnings about the risks inherent in crowdfunding campaigns. However, if you’re aware of these and still want to get involved, head over to the Supa Huka Kickstarter page where you can pledge your hard-earned cash. A fully kitted-out unit will set you back around $590. Provided it is able to reach its funding target to go into production, shipping is set to take place in March 2019.

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