• Apps

    by Published on 09-21-2016 07:30 AM
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    Sometime overnight Allo, Google's mobile-first messaging app, went live. Available for both Android and iOS, it may or may not be ready for download in your country or to your specific device—but Android users can at least grab the officiall package from Android Police's APK Mirror.

    Reading through the feature list on the official website I can already tell that this app is not for me; it's meant for a user whose primary—possibly only—connection to the Internet is through their smartphone. There's currently no desktop client for it, nor do there seem to be any data portability options. You register for Allo with a Google account and a phone number, though the Google hook-up is only necessary if you want to interact with Google's chatbot, @google.

    Out of the gate Allo faces some stiff competition from more established players in the rich messaging racket, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and a slew of alternatives whose popularity will depend on what part of the world you call home. So why even bother? ...
    by Published on 09-12-2016 07:30 AM
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    XDA was the bearer of bad news for Pokémon GO players over the weekend; the latest update to the game locks out Android users with root, and jailbroken iPhones as well. The official line from Niantic Labs is as follows:

    "We continue to focus on eliminating bots and scrapers from Pokémon GO. Rooted or jailbroken devices are not supported by Pokémon GO. Remember to download Pokémon GO from the official Google Play Store or iTunes App Store only."

    Okay, fair enough... Niantic wants only to keep an even playing field for everyone participating, right? It's a noble idea, but there are at least three problems with the way they've chosen to implement it. First, the game's root-block can be bypassed—I wouldn't call it easy but for someone hell-bent on being a Pokémon cheat it's certainly doable. Second, there's the rather insulting presumption that a user who has taken full control of their Android or iOS device has done so only to punk the game. And third, there is the continuing, if unspoken, narrative by software companies that rooted or jailbroken phones are somehow unsafe. If you've rooted or jailbroken your own device then this is just not true.

    So now, if you're a Pokémon player with root, your only choices are to give it up or bypass the root/jailbreak checks. The game itself is almost certainly compromised already and will continue to be; Niantic has really accomplished nothing here. ...
    by Published on 08-29-2016 07:00 AM
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    Don't believe posts like this; WhatsApp will soon be sharing user data with Facebook, and there's nothing you can do about it—except, of course, delete your account and move to another messaging platform.

    It's an abrupt about-face from what the company said when Facebook acquired it for $19 billion in 2014. Back then one of WhatsApp's co-founders reiterated that user privacy was "coded into our DNA". Now WhatsApp will disclose users' phone numbers and usage data to Facebook. Even worse, it will allow advertisers to contact users directly through the app.

    WhatsApp says it's all about avoiding spam and making stronger, deeper connections with friends. And while they say you can opt-out of sharing data with Facebook, it doesn't ultimately make any difference. Here's the last paragraph of the company's FAQ on the subject:

    The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.
    Facebook reportedly uses some 98 data points to track you, whether you've an account with them or not. If you continue to use WhatsApp, they'll soon have your phone number as well. ...
    by Published on 08-03-2016 07:30 AM
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    You all know how I feel about Pebble. The price is right, it has the most intuitive UI and, perhaps most importantly, its users have figured out the real killer app for smartwatches—customizable bands and watchfaces.

    It must be conceded, though, that the one area where Pebble falls flat is paid apps. There's no shortage of useful apps and attractive watchfaces in the Pebble store, but there is a lot of software that was developed for the original monochrome OS and then never updated. Why do developers abandon the platform? Possibly because there is no native system for commercial (ie. paid) listings in the store.

    But there is at least a kludge. And that's what today's post is about, the unofficial and rather inelegant solution for paid apps on Pebble.

    I had been enjoying a particularly attractive watchface called FEELTTMM for about 24 hours when my Pebble screen was suddenly taken over by the message you see above. kzl.io redirects to a service called KiezelPay—"a simple and secure way for developers to accept payments for Pebble apps and watchfaces". ...
    by Published on 07-15-2016 07:00 AM
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    Cyanogen, Inc. did something unexpected this week, releasing what I would consider the "crown jewels" of their custom ROM as a separate, flashable zip.

    Android Police tipped me to the existence of C-Apps, a bundle of five proprietary applications that can be flashed to any Android ROM with an unlocked bootloader and custom recovery. Those apps are: AudioFX, Cyanogen Account, Gallery, Theme Chooser and Truecaller Integrated Dialer.

    Why would an Android user want this? For starters, Cyanogen's Music Player has enjoyed a very good reputation among modders for a few years now. Their newer theming engine is also very popular and, in my opinion, much more polished than the Layers alternative. Finally, these applications—together with an alternative app store like F-Droid—would be a godsend for a user seeking an Android experience without Google on-board. ...
    by Published on 07-14-2016 06:30 AM
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    Having not actually played with the Android N preview yet I didn't know that one of its many new features is a themable keyboard. You can change the colour to match your wallpaper and/or CM/Layers theme and select whether or not you want a border around your keys.

    The keyboard, v5.1, has been available as a standalone download on APK Mirror since May, but according to Android Police the app is now rolling out to Play Store users around the world. ...
    by Published on 07-11-2016 07:20 AM
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    I think it's safe to say that Pokémon GO has become the most successful augmented reality game ever, for the simple fact that it's already much more popular than the only other AR game I can think of, Ingress. For its follow-up to that title the same company, Niantic Labs, has partnered with Nintendo of America to release what appears to be a runaway hit.

    Though officially only available for download in Australia, New Zealand and the USA Pokémon GO can already boast tens of millions of players, and is so much of a strain on Niantic's servers that a wider rollout of the game to other markets has been put on pause.

    So what's the big deal about this title? How do you play it? And is there a way to get it if it's not yet available in your country? Read onwards, and I'll try to answer each of these questions as best I can. ...
    by Published on 06-30-2016 06:55 AM
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    2. How-To,
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    A thoughtful person who goes by the handle Kitze has taken it upon himself to create an online directory of over 150 Google Now voice commands and their more than a thousand variations. His site, ok-google.io, must have had a lot of traffic yesterday as word of it got out on reddit; I wasn't even able to connect to it until this morning.

    I already knew at least one particularly useful command, the one where you can save a list to Google Keep and then say:

    "Ok Google, add [item] to [list]."

    And now, thanks to this guide, I also know that I can also use Google Now for device control—I can increase/decrease the screen brightness, toggle Bluetooth, even take a selfie. The site has many other categories of commands, including messaging, navigation, travel, weather, web browsing and others. ...
    by Published on 06-28-2016 06:35 AM
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    What we're looking at here is a comparison GIF of old vs. new satellite imagery for Tokyo's Haneda Airport—the area just left of centre in the lower half of the frame. In the older image you can barely make out Runway D (built on reclaimed land in 2010), but in the new image it's as clear as day.

    This is the new Google Maps, with 700 trillion pixels of new satellite data. As of this week that data will be available to users on desktop and mobile, and users of Google Earth as well.

    According to The Atlantic there are two big reasons why the satellite imagery looks so much better: an actual new satellite and improved cloud computing infrastructure that, somewhat ironically, is able to generate cloudless maps. ...
    by Published on 06-16-2016 07:00 AM
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    While CyanogenMod remains, for the moment, the godsend for Android modders, Cyanogen OS—which first became widely known on the original OnePlus One—is becoming more and more integrated with a variety of Microsoft services.

    It started back in April of 2015, when Cyanogen, Inc. announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft:

    "Under the partnership, Cyanogen will integrate and distribute Microsoft’s consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences."

    In February of this year, Cyanogen announced their MOD platform—nothing to do whatsoever with the open source CyanogenMod, but instead a means for developers to hook their wares into Cyanogen OS. Now, a new version of CM OS has just been released, and Microsoft products and services are all over it. ...
    by Published on 06-15-2016 06:55 AM
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    Yesterday at 12:30pm Eastern Time OnePlus launched their Loop VR experience, where customers could purchase a OnePlus 3 for a full two and a half hours before open sales began at 3.

    I remember last summer's OnePlus 2 launch (the first-ever phone launch in VR) as kind of a gimmick, and didn't really have high expectations for this year's Loop. But I ended up coming away rather impressed—despite not receiving my free VR headset in time and having to deal with a last-minute 604 MB download before launching the OnePlus app.

    Being able to actually buy a phone from within the app gives an obvious purpose to the proceedings, but OnePlus also added a clever feature to this year's experience: the ability to participate without a VR headset. Thus, I'm able to show you these non-stereoscopic screen grabs from my OnePlus One. ...
    by Published on 06-08-2016 06:55 AM
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    If you have Pixel Miner installed on your Pebble be warned: I'm about to tell you how the game ends.

    And it's barely a game. A 2014 Gamasutra feature puts the goal of Pixel Miner like this: help a tiny man in a helmet dig pixels out of the ground, and spend those pixels on better equipment so he can dig faster. There's a bit more to it than that, but not much.

    It's a simple premise for what amounts to an occasional diversion on your wrist. But in its own unassuming way Pixel Miner ends up testing the very limits of the Pebble and its OS. ...
    by Published on 06-06-2016 06:35 AM
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    By now everyone reading this has hopefully uninstalled ES File Explorer, the app with access to everything on your Android device—and potentially your home network—that also phones home to a remote server. If that weren't bad enough it's also become bogged down with adware as of late; a recent version put ads right on users' lock screens by default.

    Last Friday MakeUseOf included ES in a list of 10 popular Android apps not to install on your device. Here are the other 9 offenders on that list. ...
    by Published on 05-26-2016 08:00 AM
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    Data Analytics firm SimilarWeb just released a report on the most popular Android messaging apps around the world. The visualizations make this report especially great; for example, you can clearly see from the image here that Facebook is the dominant messaging platform in North America, but WhatsApp is the world's most popular app overall.

    It's interesting to see that Telegram—a popular iOS app known for its end-to-end-encryption—has for Android only really found favour in Iran and Uzbekistan. And BlackBerry Messenger? Well, Indonesians still love their BBM, no matter what platform its on. ...
    by Published on 05-20-2016 06:35 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Apps
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    Fresh off the news that Chrome OS outsold Mac OS X for the first time ever in the USA comes another bombshell: Your cheap and cheerful Chromebook might soon be able to run Android apps as well. Even better, those apps will be able to run in resizable windows on your Chrome OS desktop.

    Here's Liliputing's Brad Linder to explain:

    We’re not just talking about games—the entire Google Play Store experience now works on Chromebooks, including Google Play Movies, Music, Photos and Newsstand. Android notifications will be delivered through Chromebooks and you’ll be able to share files between Chrome windows and Android apps.
    It's pretty much great news for everyone, with the possible exception of the folks working on Remix OS. ...
    by Published on 04-22-2016 03:36 PM
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    Yesterday I wrote about Desjardin Insurance’s Ajusto app and wasn’t planning to write about it again for a while but I wanted to mention a few more things I forgot to yesterday.

    First up though, since I’ve been using it for more than a day I got my first score (as opposed to a trip score) on my iPhone.

    After a day of very careful driving I managed, wait for it, 89 out of 100. ...
    by Published on 04-21-2016 02:58 PM
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    Before my kids came, I used to really enjoy driving games. Forza 2 on my Xbox 360 was my favorite but no matter the game, the goal was typically the same, get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

    That is till now. I just downloaded Desjardins’ Ajusto app to my iPhone (also available for Android). It’s an app which analyzes how you drive and gives each trip a score out of 100. You get points for driving smooth, not cornering too hard, not speeding and not accelerating too quickly. Sounds like the recipe for the most boring car game ever.
    ...
    by Published on 04-11-2016 07:29 AM
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    But our beloved Howard Forums is safe... I think?

    I've become aware of an escalating pushback against ad blocking technology. It may or may not have began with Apple supporting Safari extensions like Adblock Plus in iOS 9—if you didn't know, the iPhone's default browser is said to be responsible for over half of all mobile web traffic in the USA.

    We're now at a point where some sites and advertisers have become openly hostile towards ad blockers. Read on for the grisly details. ...
    by Published on 03-31-2016 06:39 AM
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    Yesterday The Guardian ran a story on a new bug affecting users of iOS 9.3 and the popular travel app Booking.com, which together have the potential to break links system-wide.

    How does it work? iOS has a core system called Universal Links, responsible for linking apps and web addresses on phones and tablets. A recent version of the Booking.com app contained thousands of URLs within a 2.3MB file, far more than a typical app. Launching the app can overwhelm Apple's Universal Links and bring it down altogether.

    Booking.com has since updated their app, but anyone running the affected version with an installation of iOS 9.3 might be surprised to find that they can no longer follow links to apps or sites on their device. ...
    by Published on 03-14-2016 06:55 AM
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    2. News,
    3. Apps
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    Hey, The New York Times did an animated GIF. Cool!

    If you didn't know, WhatsApp has become the world's dominant mobile messaging platform, with 30 billion messages sent per day versus a mere 20 billion for SMS. For Android users at least, it's also more secure than traditional texting; device-to-server encryption is a standard feature for users of the Android app—encryption is apparently not yet available for iOS.

    So it must be an Android user who's under investigation, then. Because The New York Times reported over the weekend on an ongoing criminal investigation that's being stymied by WhatsApp's encryption. ...
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