Saturday, July 26, 2014

How to enable Developer Options on your Android phone or tablet

developer options nexus 5 

So you’ve finally decided to root your phone and install a custom ROM, or maybe you want to sideload an app from your computer. Before you can jump into ADB commands and perform some software surgery on your phone, you have to enable the Developer options.

Cleverly hidden away from the average user, enabling Developer options is incredibly easy to do if you know where to look.

Find the Android Build number in Settings

Android Build Number
Build number menu for the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, and HTC One (M8)
While enabling Developer Options is done in the same way for every Android phone or tablet, OEMs don’t always put the option in the same place. Navigate your phone to the “Build number” portion of the settings, which can be tucked away and buried in submenus.

Here’s how to get there on a few popular devices:

Stock Android: Settings > About phone > Build number

Samsung Galaxy S5: Settings > About device > Build number

LG G3: Settings > About phone > Software information > Build number

HTC One (M8): Settings > About > Software information > More > Build number

Once you’ve found the Build number section of the settings, tap on the section 7 times. After two taps, a small pop up notification should appear saying "you are now X steps away from being a developer" with a number that counts down with every additional tap.
unlocked developer options
When the Developer options are unlocked, you should see something like this.
After the 7th tap, the Developer options will be unlocked and available. They can usually be found in the main settings menu. You dive into that menu to do things like enable USB debugging (a frequent prerequisite to lots of hacks).
android developer options
Developer options for the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, and HTC One (M8).

Removing Developer options is possible, but only for certain phones

So you want to get rid of the developer options in the settings menu of your phone? Well, the sad truth is that the only sure-fire way to do this is to perform a factory reset. Luckily, a few phones can kill off the extra settings menu without wiping the phone completely.
clear settings data
Clearing the Settings data will remove Developer options for some phones and tablets.
If you have a phone with stock Android or the HTC One (M8), Developer options can be removed completely from your phone without wiping it. Sorry, Galaxy S5 and LG G3 users, you’re gonna need to either live with the extra menu or wipe your phone.

Go to Settings>Apps>Settings and tap on Clear Data. A popup will ask you to confirm, press OK, and you’re done. This method may work with more phones and tablets, so be sure to let us know in the comments below if it worked for you.

Deep inside Windows 8.1's hidden new features

The Windows 8.1 Developer Preview is finally here, ready to deliver us from many of Windows 8’s glaring flaws. You’ve no doubt already heard about Windows 8.1’s biggest new features: The Start button is back, Bing owns the Search charm, the split-screen Snap feature is customizable, yada yada yada. You know the drill. 

What hasn’t been talked about much are the subtler changes—the hidden secrets tucked away in the dark corners of Windows 8.1, whispering and waiting for a turn to shine rather than shouting their proverbial presence from the proverbial rooftops. 

No, these gems aren’t as flashy as Windows 8’s newfound ability to sync apps and Internet Explorer 11 tabs across multiple devices, but they’re arguably just as (if not more) handy. And there’s no way you’ll find them unless you dig deep...or read this enlightening guide.

Shut down from the Start button

Let’s start with something basic, but far from obvious. 

Yes, the Start button is back...but the Start menu isn’t. So you still need to swipe through a multiclick process involving the charm bar if you want to shut down your PC—if you don’t know about the Start button’s secret menu, that is. 

Right-clicking the Start button that appears when you hover your mouse cursor in the lower-left corner of the screen brings up a bevy of powerful options, including quick links to deep stuff like Disk Management and Command Prompt tools. 

Now, the menu itself isn’t new to Windows 8.1. What is new is the addition of a Shut Down option to said menu. Hovering over it for a second gives you options to shut down or restart your PC right then and there, no fiddling with hidden menus required.

Boot to desktop or All Apps, and more

The Taskbar Properties option is another old friend with a subtle new look—and a crucial one for desktop diehards. Did you hear that Windows 8.1 lets you boot directly to the desktop on start up? It does, but Microsoft clearly doesn’t really want you to do it, since the option is buried in this obscure corner of the OS. 

Head to the desktop, right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and then open the brand-spankin’-new Navigation tab. There, you’ll find new options for disabling the uppermost hot corners. Those options are also available in the modern-style PC Settings, but many Start screen options can only be found here. 

And how handy-dandy they are! Want to boot directly to the desktop or the All Apps screen? Here’s your chance, and the other selections are just as useful. (Show the desktop background on the Start screen? Yessssssss.)

Open the Metro version of IE 11 in multiple windows

While you’re busy taking advantage of all the hot resizable Snap size action in Windows 8.1, don’t forget that you can now have a single app open in multiple Snapped windows—something you couldn’t do in the original Windows 8 release. 

Well, kinda. 

Despite a lot of effort, I haven’t been very successful in getting that feature to function in the Windows 8.1 Developer Preview. Trying to open an app twice—or Snapping an app to one side of the screen and attempting to open a second instance—simply doesn’t work.
You can open multiple instances of the modern version of Internet Explorer 11, though. If you have multiple tabs open, you can long-press one of them and select Open tab in new window in the resulting pop-up box. Alternatively, long-pressing a link on a webpage brings up several options at the bottom of the screen, including that ‘Open tab in a new window’ dialog. 

Selecting that option causes the page to appear in another IE 11 window, and Windows 8.1 helpfully Snaps both windows into a 50/50 split.

The great gigs in the Sky(Drive)

SkyDrive takes on a much bigger role in Windows 8.1, driving Microsoft’s vision of a seamless, cloud-connected world even further. 

In fact, SkyDrive is so vital an underpinning to Windows 8.1 that Microsoft dedicates an entire section to it in the modern-style PC Settings. A vast number of settings now sync and follow you from device to device by default—including modern apps, woohoo! But if you really want to live in the cloud, you’ll need to enable some options buried three or four levels down.
Open the charm bar, and select Settings > Change PC Settings. From there, open the SkyDrive options and select Files in the left-hand menu bar. 

Here you can acquire the ability to save documents and snapshots from your Camera Roll folder to SkyDrive by default, a downright awesome new option if you want to be able to sit down at virtually any Windows 8 computer and have it feel like your own.

Hush, my darling

Relaxing ain’t easy if your gadget blasts alarms throughout the day. Windows 8 has joined Apple and Android in embracing notifications, which make sounds and light up your lock screen even if you’re not holding your tablet in your hand. Fortunately, Windows 8.1 lets you silence the cacophony with its new Quiet Hours setting. 

This one’s buried, too. Open the Settings charm, and navigate to Change PC Settings > Search and apps > Notifications. Scroll down the page a bit until you reach Quiet Hours. By default, Windows 8.1 is set to go silent from midnight to 6 a.m., but you can change the window to any time frame you desire.

Get a grip on your apps

Something really irked me about the modern apps in the vanilla version of Windows 8. No, I’m not talking about their seas of wasted space (Windows 8.1 didn’t fix that!). I mean the fact that they were incredibly pesky to manage from anywhere except the Start screen. Modern apps don’t show up anywhere obvious in the desktop File Explorer’s folder structure, and you can’t eliminate them from the Control Panel’s Programs & Features interface, either. Bleh. 

Windows 8.1 changes that. Huzzah! 

Navigate to the Search & Apps section once again, and select App sizes in the left-hand menu. The screen populates with a full listing of all your installed modern apps, complete with the file size of each app. If you’re looking to free up some hard drive space, you can click an app to bring up an uninstall option.

Wireless Miracast pairing

People don’t likes wires, and neither does Windows 8.1. Like Android 4.2, Microsoft’s OS update includes full support for the fledgling Miracast wireless display standard, which basically acts like Apple’s AirPlay technology. It’s your PC screen, beamed to your TV or monitor as if by telecommunications magic!
Miracast is so new that you might have trouble finding compatible television sets at stores near you, but you can pick up Miracast receiver dongles that transform any TV with an HDMI port into a Miracast-compatible display. Even better, when Microsoft’s Xbox One console lands in time for the holidays, it’ll be a fully capable Miracast receiver, further deepening the synergies between Windows 8 and Xbox. 

If you want to connect your Windows 8.1 device to a Miracast receiver, you can dig deep into the modern-style PC Settings. But the easier option is to open the Devices charm and select Project > Add a display. If there’s a Miracast display nearby, Windows 8 should find it.

A whole lotta printing going on

Windows 8.1 brings a bevy of improvements to the way it handles the more exotic printers popping up these days. For one thing, Windows 8.1 packs 3D printer support in the form of a driver and a native API, and hopefully—hopefully—that will make the 3D printing process as simple as the traditional 2D printing process, rather than the complicated export-filled mess that it is now.
The idea is to allow you to kick 3D printers to life using the Print option under the Devices charm, so you can print from directly within that oh-so-fresh modern interface—assuming the printer’s software takes advantage of Microsoft’s support. Check out the image below to see Windows 8.1 printing to a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer.
But the cutting-edge printing action doesn’t stop there. Windows 8.1 also includes support for NFC printers. If both your Windows device and your printer are members of the (currently rare) NFC-enabled breed, simply tapping one against the other can automatically pair the two devices for hassle-free printing action. 

And if NFC or 3D printers are just a bit too adventurous for you, you’ll be happy to hear that Windows 8.1 also includes Wi-Fi Direct printing capabilities. What does that mean? Simple: You can connect directly to a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled printer without having to jump on a Wi-Fi network or fuss with installing software, though the exact method will depend on your printer and device.

What else?

We’ve only just started to dig into Windows 8.1’s nooks and crannies. Did you find any particularly interesting gems hidden in Microsoft’s OS preview? Share ’em with your fellow geeks in the comments below!

Google announces a quad-core, 1080p Nexus 7

A sharper display, wireless charging, quad-core processor, and rear-facing camera: Google’s 2013 edition of the Nexus 7 proves you can get plenty of bang for your buck, even though its latest entry in the budget tablet market now exceeds that magical $199 price point.
But what’s an extra $30 between friends? Google’s new cost-of-entry isn’t so much a price increase as an acknowledgement of success: You loved us at $199. You really loved us. So take our hand, and let us show you what we can really deliver for just a few dollars more.

Android fans have been waiting months for a hardware update from Team Google. The company’s I/O event in May was conspicuously lacking in tablet or phone reveals, but on Wednesday, Google finally pulled the curtain on the latest iteration of its flagship Nexus hardware. Though the Nexus 7 tablet bears the same name as its predecessor, its new look and long list of feature updates—including the much-anticipated Android 4.3—give it the aura of an entirely new gadget.
The only similarity between 2012’s Nexus 7 and this year’s model is its 7-inch diagonal screen size. Indeed, the two tablets are so different, they really should have different names. Google’s new tablet is thinner and sleeker—Hugo Barra, vice president of Android product management at Google, explained that the side bezels were reduced by 3mm on each side so that the device would be easier to hold with one hand. Shaving off that 6mm provides a “much more comfortable grip,” Barra said at the event.

Google also stuck with a pure black-on-black design with the same soft touch that Barra says “everyone loved in the original Nexus 7.”

Today’s announcements also pushed forth a new processor architecture for the Nexus 7. Rather than stick with Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip, the Asus-built device now features a Qualcomm 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. It’s the same chip featured inside the Nexus 4 handset announced late last year, though according to Android Police, initial Nexus 7 performance benchmarks show the processor performing just a bit better inside the tablet. This particular chip should help increase battery life, as well as speed up software multitasking. The tablet’s RAM has also been increased from 1GB to 2GB to help support processing power.
Photo-frantic users will appreciate that the new Nexus 7 adds a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera to the mix, complementing the front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera that was available in the original model. There’s also a Slim Port on the back of the device that enables you to pipe 1080p video to your TV with an HDMI cable.

The new Nexus 7 will also be the first device to feature the 4.3 version of Android. The new OS version is still called Jelly Bean, and is merely an incremental update with the inclusion of features like restricted profiles for individual user accounts and Bluetooth LE support, a standard that makes Bluetooth connections more energy-efficient and thus less taxing on battery life. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the new graphics capabilities—lens flare effects, richer texture and more—made possible by support for OpenGL ES 3.0.
The Nexus 7’s new 1080p display is also a huge improvement over the last generation. With a resolution of 1920 by 1200, and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch, display sharpness is a big leap forward relative to last year’s 216 ppi, 1280 by 800 display resolution. Applications, pictures, games, and movies will appear clearer and brighter, making the Nexus 7 a true contender among other entertainment-focused tablets like the iPad mini.
And to help add to that experience, the new Nexus 7 will feature dual speakers on each side of the device. Google teamed up with Fraunhofer, a German engineering firm, to integrate virtual surround sound for the onboard speakers and any connected headphones. Barra compared this new features to a “5.1 surround sound system… just using the device speakers or any pair of headphones.”

Other hardware perks include the ability to wireless charge the device with an Qi-standardized wireless charger, a feature that is only available on a limited variety of Android devices. You’ll be able to simply plop down the device on a compatible charging base and have it refuel overnight. The Nexus 7 will also have NFC capabilities, and unlike its predecessor, Google and Asus will only offer a 16GB and 32GB variant of the Android tablet, priced at $229 and $269, respectively. You can also pick up a 32GB LTE version for $349. Last year's Nexus 7 is now listed as "no longer available" in the Google Play store.

It looks like Google is finally starting to take Android tablets more seriously. I took Google's second-generation Nexus 7 out for a spin and found it to be superior to its predecessor in nearly every way: The tablet has a better screen, better guts, and better software than the Nexus 7 that shipped last year. The only thing it doesn't do better than the original Nexus 7 is coddle your wallet. This new model costs $30 more (starting at $229 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model) but that extra $30 buys you a much better overall Android tablet experience.
First generation Nexus 7 (left) with the new Nexus 7 (right).
The second-generation Nexus 7 is both thinner and lighter than the original, making it even more comfortable to use and to hold one-handed. The material on the back of the device isn't as easy to grip as what's covering the original Nexus 7, and it felt like the new tablet was going to slip right out of my hands if I relaxed my grip too much. It feels solid and well-built, and didn't creak and groan when I tried to twist and bend it. The drop test will have to wait a bit; we don't want to risk breaking this thing right after taking it out of the box.
The bottom bezel on the new Nexus 7 is thicker than it was on the old one.
The top and bottom bezels surrounding the screen are thicker than they were on the first Nexus 7, but the bezels on the sides have been slimmed down some to make up for it. While the original Nexus 7 had the front-facing camera sitting squarely in the top-middle of the device when you held it in portrait mode, it is offset slightly on the new model, so you don't cover it up as often when video-chatting with the tablet in landscape mode. The power button, volume controls , and charging ports are all in the same locations as before, but the headphone jack now sits on the top right of the tablet instead of at the bottom.
The new Nexus 7 has a 5-megapixel camera and an extra speaker at the top of the tablet.
On the back of this new Nexus 7 you'll find dual speakers with virtual surround-sound (one at the top of the device, and one at the bottom), as well as a 5-megapixel camera. The speakers on the new Nexus 7 sounded crisp and clear in my limited tests, but I was underwhelmed with the camera's image quality. It seems like it'll work great in a pinch in areas where you have good lighting, but my quick test shots taken indoors came out grainy and had a bluish cast to them. This new Nexus 7 has a sharper display (1920 by 1200) than the original (1280 by 800), making it great for reading ebooks or watching HD movies.
The new Nexus 7 (right) has a higher resolution display than the old Nexus 7 (left).
Google ditched the NVIDIA Tegra 3 that was in last year's model and opted to instead go with Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor to power its new tablet. Games didn't seem to take as long to load on the new Nexus 7 as they did on the old one, and the tablet felt very responsive as I played a few minutes of Riptide GP2.

The second-generation Nexus 7 will be the first device to ship running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It doesn't feel much different from Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but you now you have the option to create restricted accounts that have limited access to apps and content—perfect if you have a kid who likes to steal your tablet to play Kingdom Rush and you don't want them messing with your other apps. I did encounter a few bugs while poking around the OS: The email app randomly crashed even though I never opened it, and the tablet lagged a bit when I tried creating a second user account.
Overall, it looks like Google has got itself a winner. The new hardware might not be enough to make owners of the previous Nexus 7 want to update, but the low price will definitely sway a number of first-time tablet buyers into picking one up. Google still needs to beef up its efforts when it comes to getting more tablet-optimized apps onto the Play Store, but for now, I'm just happy that the company hasn't abandoned the idea of running Android on something other than smartphones.
Hey, remember just the other day when Google told us that its new Nexus 7 tablet would go on sale July 30? Good times, good times. Well, Google apparently uses a different calendar from the rest of us because over at the Googleplex, “July 30” means “right now.”

A Friday tweet from the Google Play Twitter account announced the date switch. “Surprise!” the company tweeted, along with a link to Google Play’s order page.

This looks to be an instance where Google’s hand was forced by its retail partners. Earlier Friday, Best Buy, GameStop, Amazon, and Walmart all started selling the Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 still ships by July 30 when you order through Google Play. Shipping is free, if you go with the default three-to-five day ground option, but you can pay an extra $14 to get the tablet in your hands sooner. Only Wi-Fi-enabled models appear to be available from Google Play at this time.

As you can review in our hands-on with the Nexus 7, the latest version of Google’s tablet costs $30 more than its predecessor. But it’s also thinner and lighter, runs on a Qualcomm 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, and boosts the camera. It also happens to be the first device to run Android 4.3. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Apple's New 'Yosemite' Beta Operating System For Macs : First Impressions, Installation Tips, Known Issues, and Bug Fixes

Today marked the first day of Apple's public beta testing program for OS X Yosemite, letting thousands of non-developers download the software for the first time. With so many new users, new issues and bugs in the beta are coming to light and being catalogued in our Yosemite forum.

We've pulled out some user reactions from the forums to share, along with some tips on troubleshooting possible issues. For users having problems with the beta, the Yosemite forums can be an invaluable resource, and for users still debating whether or not to install the beta software, make sure to check out this post and our forums before taking the plunge as Yosemite is still somewhat unstable.

First Impressions
A lot of new Yosemite users think that the operating system looks great. According to one user, it makes Windows and Mavericks look antiquated in comparison with its new focus on translucency and clean lines. A "Yosemite is Beautiful" thread is full of praise, with users calling it "stunning" and "the best OS X has ever looked."

While there are a lot of Yosemite users who like the changes Apple's brought to Yosemite, there's a much longer complaint thread entitled "Yosemite Looks Terrible" that includes complaints about Dark Mode, "crappy" fonts, and the bland look of the translucency. Users also say Yosemite looks far less appealing on a non-Retina display.

Yosemite's Dark Mode, screenshot from Yosemite forum thread
Thus far, most users have not noticed significant performance improvements going from Mavericks to Yosemite, but that could change as Yosemite is still very much in a beta form.

Bugs and Issues
A lot of users have received an error message suggesting their Yosemite codes had already been redeemed after requesting a code. According to Apple, simply refreshing the beta page will provide an entirely new code.

One new Yosemite user who installed the operating system on a partition discovered that Yosemite may cause problems with partitions. Other users have also reported issues with partitions after installing Yosemite, while some have had no problems at all. The linked thread contains some Terminal fixes for users experiencing issues.

There's a lengthy bug thread on OS X Yosemite that has been added to throughout the beta testing period. Some remaining bugs include poor management of dual iTunes accounts, crashes in Activity Monitor, making and receiving calls with the FaceTime app, and unreliable WiFi connections. Problems with specific apps are listed in a separate thread, but some issues include frequent crashes with apps like Spotify and Microsoft Office. Apps like Final Cut Pro X, Aperture, iMovie, and Pixelmator also do not appear to be fully functional.

Handoff and Continuity
For users who have the iOS 8 beta installed on their iOS devices, MacRumors forum member Armen has put together a detailed walkthrough on how to set up Continuity and Handoff, new integration features introduced with the two new operating systems. Continuity appears to be largely functional for users with compatible machines, which have a Bluetooth LMP version of 0x6. Handoff does not appear to be working with 2011 MacBooks, but those machines do appear able to access SMS texts and phone calls.

New Features
New Yosemite users and those who are thinking about installing the beta should also check out the OS X 10.10: All The Little Things forum thread that details all of the lesser-known changes made to Yosemite throughout the beta testing period thus far to get familiarized with the operating system. For example, the latest developer preview introduced an entirely new version of iTunes, a new calculator app, and more.

Users who signed up for the public beta program can access promo codes to install Yosemite through the beta program website. Apple has also been sending out emails to those who have been selected to beta test Yosemite.

Apple recommends Yosemite be installed on a secondary machine as it is beta software, but users who do not have a secondary machine may want to install the operating system on an external drive or on a separate partition. OS X Daily has a set of instructions that walk users through both scenarios, explaining how to install on a partition or external hard drive. A MacRumors forum member has also explained how to create a bootable USB installer.

OS X Yosemite is expected to remain in beta testing until October, with new versions being seeded to both Appleseed participants and developers. Public beta test members will not, however, get as many updates to the software as developers.

A Google Executive Reveals Why The Company Came Up With Its Beautiful New Android Design

Jon Wiley, one of Google's principal designers behind its Search and Maps apps, recently opened up about the company's design principles and mobile search strategies in an open ask-me-anything interview on Reddit.

Within that thread, Wiley revealed what led the team at Google to build Material Design - which has been billed as one of the biggest new features in Android L.

Material Design is basically an aesthetic overhaul that's meant to make content look similar across screens of all sizes, whether it be watches, smartphones, or laptops. Apps are also intended to look simpler, cleaner, and more colorful with fewer distractions. 

Although Material Design was just unveiled at this year's Google I/O, Wiley said Google has been talking about the idea for years.

Here's what he had to say about Material Design in the AMA:
I'm one of the instigators of material design. It actually came about a couple of years ago when we were working on a design problem involving Google Search. I was looking at mobile results on cards and I asked "what is this made of?" People gave me funny looks, like "what do you mean? It's just pixels." But I didn't think that was a good answer.

When you physically interact with software - actually touching the cards and links and buttons, etc. - you bring a lot of expectations around how physical objects behave. If the interface isn't thoughtful about those expectations - if it's just a bunch of pixels - it leaves you with a rather unsatisfying and inauthentic experience.

Material design came about when thinking how to make Google Search better on mobile devices. So we plan to bring material design to all of its products, including Search.

When asked about the future of search in general, Wiley didn't cite any specific plans for Google but did elaborate on his overall outlook for where it's headed. For a mobile search experience to be truly intuitive, it needs to be so natural you wouldn't even have to think about it, he said in his AMA answer:

But broadly: I expect obstacles to drop away. Devices will get cheaper, smaller, lighter, longer-lasting, etc. You'll be able to connect anywhere, fast. And then WHAT you get will be much higher-quality info: not just plain facts, but specific help for what you're doing at the moment. Also, in many ways I think the technology will become more invisible - it'll fade into the background. Think of plumbing - you just turn on the tap, and voila, water! I think information technology will start feeling that way too: on-demand but unobtrusive otherwise.

Material Design will roll out with Android L, which is expected to debut in the fall. In addition to a new user interface, Android L will include Google's latest effort to improve battery life called Project Volta and a revamped Chrome browser among other features.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What It's Like Being Verified on Twitter

Twitter verification is an interesting phenomenon on the service; It's very visible since everybody sees and follows accounts which are verified, but also sort of secretive because nobody really knows how it works or how Twitter defines the criteria behind having one's account blessed.

It seems like Twitter verifies certain accounts in waves, bringing in new batches of verified users on an ongoing basis, with an obvious bias toward people who are famous, but also including those who might be impersonated or the occasional odd exception for people (like me) who aren't famous but happen to have a large following.

I can't explain how Twitter makes the decision to verify an account, but after seeing another recent spate of users being verified, I thought I'd give a little glimpse into what the experience looks like. (I'm told that some celebrities who are invited to use Twitter or coached on its use skip this process, but this is what us non-celebs see.)
  1. First, you wake up on a day that seems like any other day, but then, out of the blue: It's a direct message from the mysterious @verified account! It says "We at Twitter would like to verify your account. Please click this account and follow the instructions." and then gives you a link to a little guided setup process. I got this on my mobile phone, and wasn't surprised to find out the whole thing works just fine on an iPhone.

    We at Twitter would like to verify your account.
  2. The first thing the setup guide says is "Hi!" and then it explains "Twitter's verified badge is our way of making sure that this is you."

    Twitter's verified badge is our way of making sure that this is you.
  3. Then Twitter starts to give a few bits of advice on how to be a good tweeter; These are clearly aimed at people who aren't too familiar with the service. Interestingly, they're grouped under the heading of "Learn how to tweet effectively." Each one offers a sort of Goofus-and-Gallant version of "which one is better?" and the first asks explicitly, "Which Tweet will help double your rate of new followers for the day?". The choices in this first test are between a bland recitation of having watched the Oscars and a little more lively take on watching the show.

    Which Tweet will help double your rate of new followers for the day?
  4. The next step of the guide tells you when you've made the right choice about how to tweet effectively, offering the tidbit that "Live-tweeting a relevant event can increase your daily follower rate by 260%." Pretty heavy promotion of the Twitter-is-for-celebrities idea.

    Live-tweeting a relevant event can increase your daily follower rate by 260%.
  5. After that, there's another quiz question: "Which Tweet will more of your followers engage with?". Interestingly, this mimics one of the big things we've learned from working on ThinkUp — you have to ask answerable questions on Twitter. It seems obvious in retrospect, but lots of people don't do it.

    Which Tweet will more of your followers engage with?
  6. Again the indomitable Melisa provides the right answer to Twitter's training class, yielding the insight that "Your audience loves to interact with you. Invite questions for a Twitter Q&A to increase your followers and engagement!"

    Your audience loves to interact with you. Invite questions for a Twitter Q&A to increase your followers and engagement!
  7. A final question, fundamentally challenging the about-to-be-verified tweeter about whether they know how to drive their biggest stats on Twitter: "Which Tweet will get more clicks, favorites and retweets from your followers?" In addition to boldly eschewing the Oxford comma (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!), they provide two options on how to talk about running into Taylor Swift backstage at the Grammies, which happens to all of us blue checkmark people all the time. One choice is awesome and has a photo and the other choice is for idiots.

    Which Tweet will get more clicks, favorites and retweets from your followers?
  8. Okay, you did it! You passed the test. (I didn't grab a picture of whatever affirmation they offer after the third "Learn how to Tweet effectively" page.) So now it tells you to "Increase your trustworthiness by following other verified users", which in my case included Gavin Newsom, who was formerly the Mayor of the hair club for men. I did not follow him (instead I clicked "Next") but they let me become verified anyway, and I have not yet heard any complaints about my diminished trustworthiness.

    Increase your trustworthiness by following other verified users
  9. After all this setup, they get down to the nuts-and-bolts stuff, telling you to "Protect your account", by asking for your phone number. "Phone numbers allow us to contact you in case there is a security issue with your account", which made me think someone has the job at Twitter's office of calling celebrities and asking them "Is this stupid tweet really from you?"

    Protect your account
  10. Success at last. A happy little confirmation screen (which oddly didn't show up properly on my iPhone browser) affirms that you're now a proud new owner of one blue checkmark on your Twitter profile. Fawning followers sold separately. The very top of the screen says "Congratulations, [your name]! Your Twitter account is now verified!" The fine print says, "With your newly verified account, you will receive weekly activity reports with information about the number of people following you, and simple tips about how to increase that number. Stop getting the report by choosing 'unsubscribe' in the email footer, or uncheck the box in your email notification settings in your profile settings." That weekly email seems to be the same one that everybody else gets (I get it for my other Twitter accounts), but I was verified about six months ago, so maybe they just extended the verified email to everyone when they added those notifications.

    Congratulations, [your name]! Your Twitter account is now verified!
  11. And then a little postscript. This is the notification I received immediately after finishing the verification process. It let me know that the official @verified account was following me. I followed it back, which reminded me that I hadn't been following it in the first place, so how had it send me the DM to start the process?! Twitter Magic.

Life With the Blue Checkmark

Other than of course gaining membership to an exclusive worldwide Illuminati cabal, there really isn't any difference in using Twitter when you're verified. Some folks think it matters a lot, and there are definitely teenagers (and aspiring hip hop acts?) who desperately want a verified checkmark next to their name, judging by the rash of @ replies I got immediately after verification, from people asking how they could be verified.

One minor thing I've noticed is that verified accounts have access to Twitter's analytics, which I think are otherwise only accessible to advertisers. Users who got verified because Twitter officially brought them onto the service (who don't go through this setup process) have told me that Twitter actually showed them the analytics features. In my case, I didn't know I had access to it until I accidentally discovered that fact, and this setup process didn't give any hints to that fact.

In all, despite the oddly celebrity-centric nature of the tips they give users in the setup, I think Twitter's designed a good process for users that they want to verify. In fact, the coaching concept is terrific and should probably be incorporated into everybody's Twitter experience somehow. It's obviously far too intrusive to put into the signup flow for regular users, and the tips as written are only appropriate for bigger accounts, but the idea of teaching people how to tweet is a great one.

That fundamental idea, that we can teach people how to use social media more effectively, is in fact one of the big goals for what we're working on with ThinkUp. In our case, though, I think we assume users can have a more goals than simply increasing your daily follower rate or, um, your trustworthiness. Although those are fine goals, too, I think normal users have a broad range of things they're looking to get out of their networks.

Beyond Verification

I spend a lot of time around very digitally-savvy Twitter users, who sort of understand the Verified checkmark to be an arbitrary, Twitter-run program. But the less tech-savvy folks I talk to, if they're familiar with the Verified marker, see it as much more of a status symbol.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Raising the bar for the mid-range smartphone segment

Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Raising the bar for the mid-range smartphone segment
Mi 3 smartphone is seen at the launch event. Image: Tech2

Chinese smartphone Xiaomi (pronounced Shaomi) held a special event in Delhi on Tuesday where they formally announced their entry into the India market. Given that Xiaomi, which started in 2010, is now one of the top three smartphone vendors in China, the India launch which starts with the Mi 3 device, is a big step for the company.

As China’s smartphone market matures with 2014 seeing a rare drop in shipments, it is natural that Chinese companies will now look at India (the third largest smartphone market according to data from 2013) for expansion.  Like Motorola, the company has partnered exclusively with Flipkart for the initial launch phase, although later on we could see Xiaomi products appearing in stores and other e-commerce websites.

The company announced three smartphones would be hitting the Indian market soon. These are the Mi 3 smartphone, the Redmi 1S and the Redmi Note. The Redmi 1S is the low-end entry level model and has been priced at Rs 6,999, while the Redmi Note phablet has been priced at Rs 9,999. These two smartphones will be out in India later, though the company refused to say when.

For now, the company is launching the Xiaomi Mi 3 smartphone in India at a price point of Rs 13,999. It will hit stores on 22 July, though customers can pre-order on Flipkart now.

During the launch event, we did get to spend some time with Mi 3 smartphone and here’s our quick first impression of the device.
Mi 3 has a 5-inch full HD screen with a 441 ppi density.
Mi 3 has a 5-inch full HD screen with a 441 ppi density.

Design, style and screen: The Mi 3 might be priced at Rs 13,999 but don’t be fooled by this to assume that this is a cheap looking device. The smartphone doesn’t have a polycarbonate back, which is pretty common on budget smartphones such as those from Micromax and Karbonn or even Samsung.

The device has a 5-inch full HD screen with a pixel density of 441 ppi. This means it comes with a great screen and is cheaper than other such devices likes Micromax’s Canvas Knight which was priced at Rs 19,999 along with an Octa-core processor or the Karbonn Titanium X which was launched with similar specs as the Mi 3 but at a price of Rs 18,490.

We should point out though that smudge stains and fingerprint marks tend to stick quickly on this device’s screen and if too many people are handling this device, you’ll have to keep the screen clean to make it shine.
MIUI is the custom software on the Mi 3 smartphone, Image: Tech2
MIUI is the custom software on the Mi 3 smartphone, Image: Tech2

The Mi 3′s dimensions are 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm. While it’s not the thinnest device, the design of the phone is sleek and the fact that Xiaomi hasn’t tried to do much to the outer body (like adding random patterns to the back body) means it looks good.  The rectangular design might look similar to Sony Xperia smartphones, which isn’t too bad a design to mirror.

Processor, Space, Connectivity: So what is Xiaomi offering for the Rs 13,999 price tag? It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The Mi 3 comes with 16GB internal storage, but does not support storage expansion via microSD card, which can be a turn off for users who are looking for more space with their smartphones.

Most budget smartphones do have a microSD slot which support a 32 to 64 GB limit and that does determine the choice for many users. But it should also be noted that unlike other budget smartphones from the more popular Indian brands, Xiaomi is offering a Snapdragon 800 processor while the others have usually have the MediaTek processor chip.
Mi 3 smartphone's camera. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone’s camera. Image: Tech2

It’s also got 2G, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, which is pretty standard for most smartphones in this budget range.

Camera: The camera is a 13 megapixel one and there’s also a 2 megapixel front camera. During their presentation Xiaomi was quick to emphasis that when it comes to camera, their device has parts from the best manufacturers.

Xiaomi’s co-founder Bin Lin pointed out that the Mi 3 has a Sony Exmor sensor, which is one of the best in the industry. Another budget device that uses this sensor in its camera is the Xolo Q1200 which is also priced in the same range. The Mi 3 has dual LED flash, f/2.2 aperture and 28mm wide angle lens. Both cameras support 1080p support for video recording.
Mi 3 smartphone has this option for themes which will transform the UI on your device. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone has this option for themes which will transform the UI on your device. Image: Tech2

Vice-Chairman of Xiaomi Hugo Barra also spoke about how the MIUI software has ensured that the Mi 3 smartphone camera clicks some of the best HDR mode pictures. Some of the pictures he showed during the event did look good. But then again, we can talk more about the camera, only once we’ve used the smartphone for a longer time.
From the pictures, we clicked on the smartphone, they weren’t too bad, given that the light was pretty low inside the event hall.
For users, who don’t have too big a budget and want a solid camera on their smartphone, the Mi 3 should definitely be considered as a contender on their list.

Battery: The device has 3050mAh lithium-ion battery that promises 25 hours of talktime on 2G, 21 hours of Internet use on 3G, 50 hours of playback music and 500 hours of standby time. Xiaomi says they’ve integrated power management from operating system all the way down to the CPU, allowing users to stretch every last drop out of the 3050mAh battery.

If Xiaomi does deliver this kind of battery, it will be a big plus for the users, who want to buy a budget smartphone without compromising on battery life.

Software features: Where the Mi 3 is concerned, it runs Android 4.4.2. KitKat. While the company didn’t give any word on future software updates, they did talk a lot about their own UI: the MIUI. Mi 3 comes loaded with all Google apps, the Google Play Store, Facebook and the Flipkart app in India.

Where the MIUI is concerned, it does have its fair share of gimmicky features. For instance Themes allows users to download a theme that they can install across the app and it will transform the UI, the icons, the messages, the dialler according to the chosen theme. There was even an India based theme with the Taj Mahal as the main image.

Cliches and gimmicks aside MIUI does seem to offer some strong features. For example, it allows users to choose multiple apps, bring them down and the add them into one folder, which is pretty convenient.

In conclusion: From Xiaomi’s presentation, it was evident that the company has done its homework in India.  Both Bin and Barra spoke about the fact that Xiaomi was going to take after sales service quite seriously in the country and would launch close to 36 service centres.

In addition to this, the fact they had kept pricing in mind in when launching new products in India is another indicator that they know the pulse of this market: that it is price-driven.
Mi 3 smartphone's drop-down menu for settings. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone’s drop-down menu for settings. Image: Tech2

But it should also be noted that Mi 3 is currently the outdated smartphone as Xiaomi which is getting ready to launch the Mi 4 in China very soon. The Mi 4 will have 3G RAM, a faster processor and a bigger 5.2 inch-screen. Thus the latest products from the Chinese company aren’t coming to India first.

Xiaomi is just testing waters in India with the Mi 3 launch. Hopefully this scenario (of older devices)  will change soon as the Indian smartphone market continues to grow bigger.

MediaTek announces Super-Slow Motion technology in its latest MT6795 64-bit chip

MediaTek announces Super-Slow Motion technology in its latest MT6795 64-bit chip
The next Mediatek-powered phone could have a super camera

MediaTek has announced the arrival of Super-Slow Motion Technology, a world-first smartphone camera feature that enables devices to create 480 frames per second (fps) 1080p Full HD videos and play them back at 1/16 speed.

The technology is featured in MT6595 and MT6795 powered devices, and hopes to deliver a premium multimedia experience on mobile.  Super-Slow Motion Technology controls several subsystems that work in concert, beginning with the Sony IMX220, 20.7MP sensor, which is used to capture the videos.

The captured high fps videos are then passed through MediaTek’s image processing pipeline, ensuring that each processed frame is of good quality while displaying the image in what the company calls “excellent clarity and detail.” Additionally, users may edit their videos while retaining total control over the duration and location of the Super-Slow Motion segment on the video timeline. Once a Super-Slow Motion video is rendered, users can then easily share it with friends and family.

“Advances in technology, such as the 480fps Full HD Super-Slow Motion camera feature, allow MediaTek to push conventional boundaries and make premium mobile features accessible to everyone on the planet, aligning with our Super-mid market strategy of providing rich features at reasonable prices,” said Jeffrey Ju, General Manager of the MediaTek Smartphone Business Unit.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bloglovin - Review

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Let’s start today off with a new favorite website of mine: BlogLovin‘. BlogLovin’ solves a very simple but annoying problem. It consolidates all your favorite blogs and their posts into one place.

This may seem pretty superfluous but when you love upwards of 40 food/tech/style blogs and are constantly looking for inspiration it can be really tedious to try and 1.) remember all of the blog names, creative as they may be and 2.) sift through a pile of browser bookmarks. I’d been saving blogs on my chrome browser in a special folder for months but thanks to my secure google log-in it was impossible to view them on my phone…

And then I stumbled across BlogLovin’ by clicking on a social media icon I didn’t recognize on someone else’s blog. It was truly an AH HA! moment. The process is simple, set up an account, search for the blogs you love, then log-in to see all their postings in one place.

What follows is a quick review and two how-to’s on setting up an account and claiming your blog. If you’re interested then read on!

BlogLovin' Stats

Intuitive User Interface - 75%

Blogs Available - 90%

Claiming/Setting Up Your Blog - 60%

General User Set Up - 80%

After Set Up Maintenance - 90%

Accessibility - 90%


BlogLovin' is super user friendly and low-maintenance once you've set up which blogs you follow. There are a few bugs in the website's ability to count how many posts are waiting to be read but the choice of blogs is excellent, with most major blogs present and easy to follow.

User Rating: Be the first one !
Quick notes: I love the overall ease and experience of using this website. It’s made my blog reading life spectacularly easier and is ideal for those who want to look at a lot of blogs at once. That said there are a few bugs still left in the system. The count of unread articles can go a little haywire at times (even showing negative numbers) and when you follow a blog for the first time you get flooded with all of their recent posts in your feed. That said, all you have to do is mark the posts you’re uninterested in as read and they’ll be pushed to the bottom of your feed on refresh. On the accessibility note, there are apps to access your feed from all Apple and Android devices, as a train-riding commuter I seriously appreciate this feature.

Setting Up BlogLovin’

Though BlogLovin’ is pretty intuitive lets quickly walk through the steps of setting up your account and following blogs!
First step is super easy! Pop on over to and click the signup link of choice (I prefer email personally but to each their own!).[one_half][/one_half] [one_half_last]Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.09.03 AM[/one_half_last]
  1. After you’ve set yourself up you’ll be asked to find some blogs you’d like to follow! You can peruse popular blogs and sift through categories if you’d like or if you’re impatient like me you can use the search bar (top right corner). [one_half]
    Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.09.38 AM[/one_half][one_half_last]
    Be sure to choose the right option! Following "Comments on" is not the same as following a blog
    Be sure to choose the right option! Following “Comments on” is not the same as following a blog
  2. You can always find out more about a blog by clicking on it’s name. BlogLovin’ will show you their recent posts and images so you can decide whether or not that blog is the right fit for you! (Ignore my dismal number of followers – I’m a blog on here as of roughly a couple of days…)Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.10.19 AM
  3. Should you want to unfollow someone: Click on the link to the Blog’s name (not the post name) in your feed. Then when on that posts page click on the button that says “following”. This will unfollow the blog.
    Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.36.47 AMScreen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.36.21 AM
You’re good to go! Interested in getting your blog onto BlogLovin’? Read on!

Claiming Your Blog on BlogLovin’

Now what if you’re a blogger and want your blog to be indexed by this super fabulous site? First things first, you have to have an RSS feed set up for this to work. So if you haven’t done that yet you’ll want to.
  1. In your newly acquired BlogLovin’ account click on the little circle in between the search bar and the alert bell:Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.43.40 AM
  2. In the drop down menu click “your blogs”
    Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.14.17 AM
  3. Once the page loads click “Claim your blog” and in the search box that pops up (image on bottom) paste your full blog URLScreen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.14.26 AMScreen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.14.38 AM
  4. If you’ve got an RSS feed you’re blog should be recognized, select your blog and you’ll be given a snippet of code to paste into a new post (it will display as a BlogLovin’ button). I created a blank posting (if you do it this way, wait ’til off-hours so your readers aren’t confused) with the button in it, published it and then popped back over to BlogLovin’ to confirm that the connection had gone through.
  5. Once you make the connection to BlogLovin’ it may take a little while for all of your recent posts to be indexed. Don’t worry they will show up!
Note: If you can’t get your blog to appear in search, check out the support link for that here or for BlogLovin’s notes on claiming your blog look at this page.


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