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Roku launches a rechargeable, hands-free voice remote and other devices, rolls out Roku OS 10

Roku today is unveiling new hardware and software, including the latest version of its Roku OS media software, Roku OS 10, which expands support for AirPlay 2 and Apple’s HomeKit, and adds a variety of new features and optimizations focused on helping users get to content and stream faster. It’s also introducing its latest 4K player, the Roku Express 4K+; an updated version of its combo media player and soundbar; and an upgraded voice remote with a rechargeable battery and hands-free voice support via the “Hey Roku” command.

Of the three new devices, the Roku Voice Remote Pro ($29.99) may actually be the more interesting addition as it pushes Roku into the “smart speaker” space, so to speak — except in this case, the “speaker” is a TV remote equipped with a mid-field microphone that’s always listening for the “Hey Roku” command. From a practical standpoint, that means you can leave the remote laying on your coffee table and instead speak commands like “Hey Roku, launch Netflix” or “search for free movies,” or “show me comedies,” or whatever else it is you want to watch — without having to first pick up the device and press the push-to-talk voice search button.

Image Credits: Roku

This feature, of course, also comes with concerns. Consumers may be wary of bringing more voice assistants into their home, after it was discovered that tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple had initially dropped the ball on respecting consumer privacy when it came to how users’ voice data was being stored and utilized. Though they’ve all made changes since, the experience may have left its mark on consumers’ minds.

For what it’s worth, Roku says it will retain some of the audio recordings it receives for technical support and to improve the quality of its service, much like the others in the market. And users can opt out of that data collection (via Roku.com/account/voice). The company notes that voice recordings are disassociated from the consumer’s account within 30 days, and it only allows access to Roku employees, not contractor workforces.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, the remote offers a mute button for the microphone if you want to upgrade for its other features, and not use the hands-free listening.

The other features still make for a worthwhile upgrade, however, as this is Roku’s first remote with a rechargeable battery, for example. The device charges via a micro-USB cable, which is more environmentally friendly. It also offers preset buttons with access to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and, for the first time, Apple TV+. And it offers a lost remote finder feature (which works via voice, too); private listening via the built-in headphone jack; a push-to-talk voice button if you don’t want hands-free; and two personal shortcuts for favorite voice commands.

The voice remote is on sale today via Roku’s website and will be available in retail stores in May.

Image Credits: Roku

Another new device announced today is the Roku Express 4K+ ($39.99) which will replace the older Roku Premiere.

This digital media player is targeted towards first-time streamers and secondary TVs — which are now more often becoming 4K TVs, but where consumers don’t need the full specs of Roku’s top-of-the-line players. The Express 4K+ has a faster processor than the Premiere and more storage, as well as support for dual-band Wi-Fi. It works with third-party micro-USB and Ethernet adapters, which is a plus as hardwiring your device was previously a feature only available on the pricier Roku Ultra.

The device also brings HDR 10+ to the Roku platform for the first time, though this support will soon make its way to the Roku Ultra through the upcoming Roku OS 10 software update. It additionally supports HD, 4K, HDR, and HDR 10 and ships with a standard voice remote.

Image Credits: Roku

The device goes on sale in the U.S. in mid-May online and in retail stores. Walmart, a Roku partner, will have an exclusive version of the Roku Express 4K+ called Roku Express 4K ($35) which offers a better value by dropping the voice remote for the basic one.

Along with the launch of the media player and remote, Roku is updating its Roku Smart Soundbar in mid-May. The device is being rebranded to the Roku Streambar Pro ($179.99), and will feature both 4K streaming and cinematic sound, but now ships with the same voice remote that comes with the Ultra, which means it supports private listening on headphones. And it adds support for a new Roku OS 10 feature called Virtual Surround, which aims to simulate a surround sound setup for Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Streambar Pro owners, who don’t have another set of speakers to offer true surround sound.

Image Credits: Roku

In addition to Virtual Surround and HDR 10+ support, Roku latest OS will roll out Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support to more HD devices, including the Roku Express and some HD Roku TVs.

It will also add a customizable Live TV Channel Guide with favorites; automatic Wi-Fi network detection during setup (and it tells you which of your multiple channels is better to use); and an “instant resume” feature which takes you back to where you left off when you relaunch a supported channel.

At launch, there are over 15 channels that support “instant resume,” including AT&T TV, FilmRise, FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, Fubo Sports Network, HappyKids TV, Plex.tv, STARZ, and The Roku Channel.

Image Credits: Roku

For gamers, a new automatic game console configuration feature, which automatically configures preferred settings, could be useful.

“Depending on the capabilities of the console and the TV, it can also mean turning on things like HDR gaming, variable refresh rates, high frame rate gaming like 120Hz, or maybe THX Certified Game Mode. So, without having to go through complex menus, a user just plugs in their console, and we know exactly how to give them the best experience on the game side,” noted Roku VP of Retail Product Strategy, Mark Ely. The feature works with both Xbox and PlayStation consoles and will also update the input on the Home Screen.

Image Credits: Roku

Roku OS 10 is rolling out to select Roku players now and is expected to roll out to all supported streaming players, including the all-new Roku Express 4K+ and Roku Streambar Pro, and all Roku TV models in the weeks ahead.

The new devices and software arrive after a year of increased at-home streaming due to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced users indoors and under lockdowns. Roku in Q4 2020 reported 51.2 million active accounts, up 39% for the year, and 58.7 billion streaming hours, while its free streaming hub, The Roku Channel, saw roughly 200% growth between just June and August 2020 when it added live linear viewing.

“Our business and streaming, in general, continues to grow and accelerate just because there’s such a shift from people that are getting rid of cable and moving over to streaming. And we saw, of course, with theater shutdowns, more people streaming first-run movies at home,” Ely noted. “So, streaming hours increased, and the volume of our products and the popularity of streaming devices increased, as well,” he added.

Roku’s continued momentum, however, cannot rely on pandemic impacts alone. Amazon remains a top competitor, and just rolled out its updated Fire TV interface months ago. There are also now rumors that Apple is planning an updated player of its own, with an Apple TV-HomePod combo of sorts, similar to the existing Roku Streambar. That will leave Roku with plenty of competition to keep it on its toes for months to come.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/13/roku-launches-a-rechargeable-hands-free-voice-remote-and-other-devices-rolls-out-roku-os-10/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Sarah Perez

The physics of why food sometimes sticks to the center of a nonstick frying pan

Eggs frying in a pan have been arranged to look like a smiling face.

Enlarge / Foods will sometimes get stuck to a heated surface, even if oil or a nonstick frying pan is used. Scientists have concluded that convection may be to blame. (credit: Dan Tentler/via Getty Images)

Home cooks around the world have relied on nonstick cookware for decades for quick and easy cleanup after preparing meals. But sometimes food will get stuck to the center of nonstick pans anyway. A new paper published in the journal Physics of Fluids offers a likely explanation—food sticks because of the same underlying mechanism that gives rise to the coffee ring effect and so-called “wine tears.”

The first nonstick frying pans were made possible by the invention of Teflon in 1938 by a chemist named Roy Plunkett, who was researching possible new chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants as part of a joint venture with DuPont. In April of that year, Plunkett later recalled, his assistant selected one of the cylinders they were using to store tetrafluoroethylene gas (TFE) at dry-ice temperatures until the canisters were ready to be chlorinated for their experiments. When the assistant opened the valve, the gas did not flow under its own pressure from the container, as expected.

Puzzled, the researchers opened the container only to find the gas was gone. In its stead, they found a white powder. The TFE had polymerized into a waxy solid called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which proved to have some interesting properties: it was chemically inert and heat-resistant, and it had very low surface friction. Perhaps it wasn’t useful as a refrigerant, but it proved to be a terrific nonstick coating.

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1739131
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jennifer Ouellette

The new Mac mini: The revival of the no-compromise low-cost Mac

There’s nothing small about the latest Mac mini.

Never mind the Mac mini’s tiny size or low price. This diminutive desktop is a revolution for most users, thanks to Apple’s new chipset. Called the M1, this chip platform replaces the Intel CPU long found at the heart of Apple’s desktop and portable computers, and the results are impressive.

Using the M1 Mac mini feels like using a new iPad or iPhone. Everything satisfyingly snaps into place. I keep waiting for my test machine to start lagging, and nearly a week later, it’s just as fast as the day I started using it. The new Mac mini is surprising, and most users will find it a major upgrade over existing Mac computers. It’s hard to beat regardless of the price.

For casual users, those who live in a web browser or Apple’s apps, the Mac mini is a no-brainer option. This is the desktop I would buy for myself. Even for power users, those who run bespoke applications, the Mac mini should be seriously considered. Most mainstream applications excel on the new Mini — especially apps with a creative tilt toward photography or video.

The Mac mini has long been a forgotten friend among the Mac lineup. Hardly updated and never promoted, it sat on the bench for years, watching as Apple’s portables received updates and refreshes as the world became more mobile. But here we are in the midst of a never-ending pandemic. With coffee shops closed and business travel limited, the COVID-19 crisis could lead to the rediscovery of the desktop computer.

The M1-powered Mac mini is a winner.

Review

There are several things you should know. One, the new Mac mini runs the M1 SoC, which is fundamentally different from its Intel predecessor. Instead of a CPU, it’s an SoC — System on a Chip, which comes with advantages and concessions. The chipset is built around an ARM design with more integrated components than its CPU counterparts. In many ways, it’s more similar to the system powering phones and tablets than the chips used in traditional computers. Because of this design, components that used to be discrete are now integrated directly into the chip.

Second, Apple provided a 6K 32-inch Pro Display XDR with my test Mac mini (these will be returned to Apple). I’m also running a 24-inch display over HDMI. According to the Mac mini’s product page, the system is limited to two monitors. I was able to hook up a third monitor through 3rd party software but it was unstable and should not be considered a capability.

Lastly, you should know TechCrunch also reviewed the new 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. We benchmarked these systems with similar conditions to demonstrate the differences between the units. You can find the reviews here for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

In our tests, we found Apple’s M1 system on a chip (SoC) to outperform its rivals, regardless of price. With the M1 at its core, the Mac mini is faster in most regards than every Apple computer available except for the ultra-expensive Mac Pro — and sometimes the Mini is faster than the Mac Pro, too. What’s more, this performance increase is noticeable throughout the system and not just limited to raw computing tasks in purpose-built applications. The system is snappy, responsive and feels like the start of a new era of computing.

MacBook Air M1 review: The right Apple Silicon Mac for most

The new Mac experience

Snappy hardly describes the experience of the new Mac mini. This system flies. Users will instantly notice the increase in speed, too, from startup time to launching apps. In the past, even on powerful machines, macOS has always felt heavy compared to iOS, but not anymore. With the M1 chip, macOS (Big Sur) is light and free and a joy to use.

Even better, the ARM-based M1 chip allows Macs to run iOS applications, and they run as smoothly on the Mac as they do on an iPad.

There’s likely a hesitation around embracing a new Intel-less Mac. Will your legacy applications run on these machines? Will they run well? I can’t answer every variable. I installed and ran dozens of applications during my few days with the system and never experienced a roadblock. Even with older programs, everything ran as advertised, and in most cases, ran better on this M1-powered Mac mini than on my few-months-old 15-inch MacBook Pro. I didn’t find one application unable to run on the new platform.

The largest speed increases are most noticeable when using native apps for the M1 processor. With Apple’s Final Cut Pro, the application loads seemingly instantly — two seconds from button press to it being open and ready to go.

With the M1 chip, it’s less painful to edit 8K footage in the native Final Cut Pro app than it was to edit 4K footage on an Intel Mac. Exporting the files still takes time, though, and this is one of the few tasks where Intel’s platform outperforms the M1.

Even when using legacy software, the system preformed with ease. Edits in Photoshop seemed more fluid. Lightroom loaded photo albums quicker and without hesitation. Editing video in Premiere was easier and less painful as I scrubbed through 6K footage. Even unzipping files was much quicker.

Image Credits: Matt Burns

This is a silly demonstration, but watch the GIF above. Applications open instantly — all of them at the same time. If Apple put a beachball in this system, I haven’t found it yet.

The M1 chip is based on an ARM design, which required Apple to rework macOS to run on this new computing platform. While it looks mostly the same, the macOS is now purpose-built for Apple’s own silicon. To take full advantage of the redesigned chip, applications need to be re-coded into an Arm-friendly design. And yet, we found something surprising: Even the apps that are not re-coded yet are still impressively fast thanks to Apple’s Rosetta 2 that enables software encoded for Intel’s platform to run on the new Apple platform and take advantage of the M1’s power.

For most uses, this holistic approach of building the hardware and software results in major advantages. Common system-level tasks like launching apps, waking from sleep and unzipping files are lightning-fast. Other items like rendering video and editing photos are just as fast, too. Right now, at launch, all of Apple’s apps — from Music to Photos to Safari — are re-encoded for the M1. Like those from Adobe, other apps are not yet native, but the older versions run fine, and in most cases, run better on the M1 than an Intel platform.

The M1 platform lacks a dedicated graphics processing unit. It’s built-into the core of the chip. Thanks to a memory dedicated to machine learning, this lack of a discrete GPU is hardly noticeable for professional users. Still, those who do intensive graphics work (like professional gfx visual artists) should hesitate. Even then, this conclusion could change once the applications become native to the new ARM architecture.

The M1 also lacks the ability to use an eGPU — an external graphics card — but most users should not fret. It could be a problem for pros who found the Intel-based Mac minis paired with a powerful eGPUs as a viable, low-cost alternative to the Mac Pro. However, based on our testing, the GPU performance in these M1 systems are impressive and could be good enough for most, even in creative media editing applications.

In addition to common workflows, I ran through some industry benchmarks to see how the system responds and came away impressed. We took it one step further, too, and charted the performance between Apple’s top-of-the-line systems and the new 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Benchmarks often oversimplify results, but in this case, they seem necessary. This puts systems on common ground. By looking at multiple tests, the results draw a common conclusion. The M1 is really good.

The new Mac lineup

The Mac mini has two siblings. The M1 is also available in Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. The differences are minor. The same computing platform powers all three but feature different cooling schemes in the MacBook Pro and Mac mini. Because of the improved cooling, the MacBook Pro and Mac mini are better suited for sustained performance.

In our testing, all three machines performed similarly. The Air started to fall short in the longer tests, and that’s likely due to its passive cooling that does not feature a fan. In the MacBook Pro and Mini, the SoC is cooled by a fan, while a heatsink is used in the Air.

What does this mean for you? For most users, the Air’s performance is sufficient as it only slows down during long, intensive tasks. For browsing the web, editing photos and watching videos, the Air is perfect.

There’s one downside to the new Mac mini over its Intel sibling. The M1 Mac mini only sports two Thunderbolt 4 inputs — that’s because the M1 chipset has an integrated Thunderbolt controller and it supports up to two of these ports. For some users, this could be a deal-breaker, though it’s not for me. There are countless ways to expand the Thunderbolt capability of the Mac mini, and to me, the performance of the machine outweighs the port limitation.

The M1 Mac mini also lacks a 10GB Ethernet option, limiting its use as a server for some users. This is also likely an M1 limitation, and something I would expect would be addressed in future chipset revisions.

Multiple monitor support is a major downside to the M1 Mac mini. It only supports two monitors: one through Thunderbolt and one over HDMI. I was able to get a third monitor running at low resolution through third-party software, but it was unstable and performed poorly. To some, including me, multiple monitor support is a major issue and two monitors are often not enough.

Benchmarks

Apple, when promoting the M1-powered computers, laid out some wild claims about the chipset. We found most of the claims to be factual. We ran a handful of benchmarks on the M1 systems, comparing them against the most recent Macs, including the Mac Pro.

Benchmarks paint with a broad stroke and often miss nuances. That’s the case here. While the first few benchmarks demonstrate the speed of the M1, the final test fails to capture a critical aspect of Final Cut Pro. Sure, it’s slower to export than an Intel-based system, but using the M1-native version of Final Cut Pro is much smoother than what’s available on older systems. I was able to easily manipulate, scrub and edit 8K footage without even a hiccup. Rendering takes longer, but editing is seemingly easier.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Here we downloaded the Xcode 12.3 beta. It’s an 11.57GB file that extracts a 28.86GB folder. Lower times are better.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Here we compile WebKit. Lower times are better.



With Geekbench, we ran two tests: One, using Rosetta 2 to demonstrate the system’s power when running legacy applications. Then we ran Geekbench in an M1 native mode to test Apple’s silicon. Higher is better.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

For Final Cut Pro, we timed the rendering of an 8K video (80GB). Lower is better.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Breakthrough performance for the price
  • Easily able to run legacy (Intel) and iOS apps
  • Cool and quiet

Cons

  • Support for only two monitors
  • No eGPU support
  • Only two Thunderbolt 4 ports

Test Mac mini specs

  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 1TB SSD storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Price as tested: $1,299

The new Mac mini is a fantastic machine and feels like the start of a quiet revival. In another era, Apple was known for its solid, fairly-priced desktops, which is a great description for this Mac mini.

As a longtime fan of the Mac mini, I’m thrilled to see it once again as a great option for those of us who live at a desk .

With the M1 chipset, Apple is moving onto a new chapter in its long history of personal computers. This chip redefines the computing paradigm by offering stellar performance in a small, power-efficient package. In the Mac mini, the M1 shines as a stable workhorse that provides a new experience to Mac desktops. In the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, the M1 is just as solid while offering substantially better battery life than previous offerings. Read those reviews here and here.

Should you get the new Mac mini? If you’re stuck at a desk, yes. The new Mac mini is fantastic.

MacBook Air M1 review: The right Apple Silicon Mac for most

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/17/the-new-mac-mini-the-revival-of-the-no-compromise-low-cost-mac/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Matt Burns

13 Essential Apps Every College Student Needs

Students walking outdoors on university campus while using phoneMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re a brand-new college student just entering your first year or a jaded senior, college is tough. But if you’re equipped with the right apps, you won’t have a hard time keeping things organized or understanding what your professor was talking about. You’ll survive college in one piece and graduate in no time.

It can be tough to find an app when you need it most, and having to spend an hour in the app store digging through irrelevant apps is just a frustrating waste of time. Lucky for you, we found some free apps that’ll make studying easier, help you take notes, type up papers, stay in shape, balance your budget, and stay relaxed while focusing on your classes.

Learn (or Better Understand) Concepts: Khan Academy

Khan Academy app for learning school courses onlineKhan Academy

Sometimes, you just end up with a professor who doesn’t do a good job of explaining things. Or maybe you’re just taking a course with crazy difficult material that just isn’t sinking in. With Khan Academy (free), you can brush up on all kinds of subjects, from physics to art history on your own time, as many times as you need. The site is packed with excellent video tutorials for topics and offers exercises for you to work through to ensure you understand things.

You don’t need to create an account on Khan Academy to access the content, but doing so will allow you to save your progress and bookmark courses for easy reference in the future. The site is the perfect complement to school and will help you survive difficult courses and professors alike without breaking a sweat.

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Brush Up on Literature: SparkNotes

SparkNotes app for studying chapter summaries for literatureSparkNotes

If you’re struggling to understand a particular book or you just don’t have time to read, digest, and analyze the entire thing in a week, SparkNotes (free, with in-app purchases) has your back. In the app, you can find chapter summaries and study questions for common books, and even take quizzes to see how well you understand the material. You can search for SparkNotes literature guides by author name or title.

SparkNotes is free for one month, then to keep accessing its guides you’ll need to pay $0.99 per month, or $4.99 per year. The paid version is ad-free, supports dark mode and customizable text sizes, and gives you full access to all content even if you don’t have an internet connection.

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Study for Your STEM Courses: Wolfram Alpha

Learn how to solve math problems and study other topics with Wolfram Alpha's appWolfram Alpha

Another great resource for helping you with your homework (especially for STEM courses) is Wolfram Alpha (free), which is a computational search engine. The program uses artificial intelligence to solve difficult math problems, like plotting a function or computing a statistical quantity. It’s also a vast knowledge base for all kinds of other things, like finding out when a particular video game was released, learning about an artistic sculpture, or figuring out how to split a bill three ways with a 15% tip.

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Learn a Language: Duolingo

Use Duolingo to help you study for your languages courses, with short lessons and vocab helpDuolingo

Learning a new language is fun and will look terrific on your resume. That being said, sometimes elements like verb conjugation can be totally confusing. With Duolingo (free, with in-app purchases), you can learn a language through simple bite-sized lessons. Duolingo also makes it easy to review vocab and see things like conjugated verbs used in everyday sentences. The app uses listening and writing exercises to help cement concepts, and you can even test-in if you already know a good portion of a language and don’t want to start from scratch.

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Free Email, Calendar, & Word Processor: Google

A Google account gets you free email and other useful apps you can access anywhereGoogle

Google (Free) is more than a search engine—it has tons of other tools that are perfect for students. If you create a free Google Account, you’ll get Gmail and access to Google’s other free apps: Photos, Keep, Translate, Calendar, Maps, Messages, Meet, Books, Podcasts, and more. You’ll also get access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which are the company’s free equivalent of Microsoft Office—perfect for reports and presentations.

The best thing about a Google Account? Everything is saved in the cloud, so no more jump drives. Log on from any device to access your emails, files, and documents, no matter where you are. The apps are fully integrated with each other, so you can schedule meetings from Gmail and have the details show up automatically in Calendar and Google Maps, for example. Logging in on a browser also syncs your bookmarks and extensions, so they’re always at the ready, too.

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Take Notes and Make To-Do Lists: Evernote

Evernote app for taking notes, or photographing and digitizing notesEvernote

You can easily take notes in class and review them later on with Evernote (Free, with in-app purchases). Beyond note-taking, the app is also great for creating to-do lists and keeping your projects organized. It can even clip and save web pages, scan and store documents, and keep your files synced across all of your devices.

Evernote’s note-taking technology is terrific. It can search your handwritten notes for a keyword, so you can find important information when you need it most, or capture notes taken on a whiteboard, sticky note, or other surfaces and save them. Evernote can also search for keywords in PDF and DOC files. Having a single place for your notes, to-do lists, projects, and deadlines will keep you organized and on top of everything.

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Fantastic Helpful Flashcards: StudyBlue

StudyBlue app for creating and studying flashcards, or crowdsourcing course material from other students on the appStudyBlue

Flashcards are a quintessential college supply. They help you learn vocab words or study and memorize important concepts for a test. StudyBlue (free, with in-app purchases) is a digital flashcards app, which means your flashcards will always be on hand, and you won’t have to worry about leaving them somewhere or losing one.

You can create your own flashcards with StudyBlue, or review information on the 400 million flashcards already in the StudyBlue database, which will save you all kinds of time if you don’t have to input questions and answers yourself. The app can also track your study progress, set reminders for you to study, create custom quizzes, and connect you with your classmates so you can study together.

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Improve Your Writing: Grammarly

Grammarly app to help you avoid spelling errors and write strongerGrammarly

Whether it’s on a simple quiz or a daunting academic paper, getting marked down for typos and other grammatical errors always sucks. It can be embarrassing if you frequently make mistakes in your writing, or can never find the best word to use when expressing yourself. Grammarly (free) can help you with all of that, and it’s also available as a browser extension, so you can get help with your writing no matter which device you use.

Grammarly catches spelling and punctuation errors, but can also help you find stronger or more accurate words, write more concisely, and help you sound more confident and knowledgeable. It’s the perfect companion to have while writing a paper, chatting with classmates, or sending an email to an intimidating professor.

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Log Calories and Exercise: MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal for logging caloric intake and exerciseMyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal (free, with in-app purchases) does a great job of helping you log food intake and workouts, and can help you set both diet and exercise goals if you’re trying to stay in shape during the school year. The app’s huge database has over 11 million food items in it, including many from popular restaurants, so logging is super easy. It also has a barcode scanner and recipes you can use for your own meals.

Best of all, MyFitnessPal has a terrific community. You can connect with other users to get (or share) advice on dieting and exercise, or get support when you’re struggling. It also has integration with over 50 apps, like Apple Health and Fitbit, for easy logging of your exercise and other metrics.

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For Budgeting Your Money: Mint

Mint app that helps you budget money and remember to pay billsMint

When you’re living on your own away from the parents, it’s tempting to spend all of your money on food, drinks, games, and other fun things. But creating and sticking to a budget means you’ll always be able to responsibly pay your bills, cover unforeseen expenses, and occasionally have some fun with. Mint (free, with in-app purchases) makes budgeting easy and offers simple easy-to-understand budget tracking tools. With it, you’ll always know exactly what you’ve spent money on, and how much money you currently have available.

Mint brings all of your accounts to one central location, so you can manage all of your finances at a glance. This makes it much easier to note upcoming bills and pay them, and even create a budget based on your personal spending habits. The app also lets you check your credit score whenever you want, which is a must-have if you’re working on building up your credit. Mint can even send you reminders for upcoming bills or when your funds are running low.

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Scan and Digitize Your Documents: Adobe Scan

Adobe Scan app for scanning physical documents or notesAdobe

Having a good scanner app is essential for submitting important paperwork to your department’s dean or to the registrar. They’re also great for capturing, digitizing, and sharing notes or other physical projects. Adobe Scan (free) produces high-quality scans, and also lets you edit and share files easily. It can scan a variety of physical surfaces, from whiteboards to magazines to complex forms, and remove blemishes or wonky shadows.

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Fast Food (and More) Delivered: Postmates

Postmates app for ordering delivery of food and suppliesPostmates

You can get food delivered right to your dorm with Postmates (free, with in-app purchases), leaving you more time for studying. The service can also deliver other things like groceries, beer, or party supplies. Through Postmates, you can order from over 500,000 restaurants and stores. Postmates also has an Unlimited plan ($9.99 per month), which gives you free delivery on every order over $12, no blitz peak-hour pricing, and other special offers.

You can easily order food from popular national chains, as well as Postmates-exclusive brands like Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, KazuNori, Sugarfish, Blaze Pizza, Alfred Coffee, Backyard Bowls, and Salt & Straw. The service is available in over 4,200 cities across the United States, and has over 650,000 associates ready to quickly deliver you food and more.

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Free Emotional Support and Counseling: 7 Cups

7 Cups with emotional support and counseling resources7 Cups

College is often exciting and fun, but it can feel incredibly stressful or overwhelming at times, too. When you’re feeling down, having someone to talk to can help put things in perspective and help you stay motivated and focused on the future. With 7 Cups (free, with in-app purchases), you can find free anonymous emotional support and counseling at any time of day.

7 Cups allows you to chat with a listener, calm your mind with one of over 300 mindfulness exercises, take a free wellness test, boost your mood with simple activities and videos, and connect with others in the community forums and chat rooms. It also has resources for finding online message-based therapy with licensed therapists.

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Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/53488/13-essential-apps-every-college-student-needs/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

The 6 Best Google Assistant Speakers You Can Buy in 2020

Person carrying Bose Portable Home SpeakerBose

If you’re heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, using Google Assistant is likely second nature for you at this point. Whether it’s smart home commands or listening to music, Google Assistant is just useful to have around. So, why not have it around everywhere and the addition of great audio quality with a Bluetooth speaker that has Google Assistant built-in?

What to Look for in a Google Assistant Speaker

When it comes to selecting your speaker, there are a few things you should consider.

  • Audio Quality: Obviously, this is the most important part of any speaker. You might have your preferences on how you like your audio to be tuned, but regardless of that, the speaker you buy should output audio worth its price tag.
  • Connection Requirements: Google Assistant requires an internet connection for most features. You can still use the Bluetooth functionality without the internet, but if you want full access to Google Assistant, you’ll need to be connected to some form of network (whether that’s from the local coffee shop or your mobile hotspot).
  • Build-Quality: You don’t want your expensive new speaker breaking within the first week. The speaker should be durable—able to survive a drop or two. After all, these speakers are built to be taken out of the house.
  • Waterproofing vs. Water Resistance: Going along with build quality, it’s important to understand the difference between a speaker being waterproof and being water-resistant. A waterproof speaker can safely survive being submerged in shallow water for short periods of time. Meanwhile, a water-resistant speaker can only survive splashes of water and rain. Some manufacturers may also provide an Ingress Protection rating, which can clue you in to how waterproof the speakers are.
  • On-Device Inputs: While you can use voice commands to control your speaker, that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful to have some tangible buttons to manage things as well.
  • Size and Weight: If you’re packing a speaker in a bag, you want it to be fairly compact. Even cutting an inch or two can make a surprising difference, and the same goes for how much it weighs. It is worth noting that, generally speaking, smaller speakers have to make the trade-off of lesser sound quality to achieve their compact size, though.
  • Battery Life: An obvious factor for sure, but you want your speaker to last a decent amount of time before dying.

A Line with Options: JBL Link Portable and Link 20

JBL is probably the most well-known for producing these sorts of speakers, and for good reason. Its lineup balances price, audio quality, and portability insanely well, and you even have a couple of options to choose between in the Link Portable and the Link 20.

JBL Link PortableJBL

Starting at the smaller option, the JBL Link Portable is built for, well, portability. It’s fully waterproof, lasts for about eight hours on a full charge, and still features the quality sound JBL is known for. Naturally, as a fairly small speaker, the audio quality can’t match larger speakers like the Link 20, but it’s still great for the size. The on-device inputs on the Link Portable are pretty simple, with a Google-Assistant button and volume controls on the top of the speaker.

The Link Portable comes in three colors: grey, blue, and black (pictured above).

JBL Link 20JBL

If audio quality is your main concern, then the JBL Link 20 is the way to go. It’s significantly taller than the Portable at 8.26 inches, but in exchange for that increased height, you’re getting better audio quality. And, just like the Link Portable, the on-device inputs can be found on the top of the Link 20.

Alongside portability though, you’re also making a couple of other tradeoffs with the Link 20. It’s only water-resistant (Ingress Protection rating of IPX7) instead of waterproof like the Portable, and it only lasts for five hours on a full charge. There is also the Link 10, which is a smaller version of the Link 20 and is around the same size as the Portable. It has the same features and battery life of the Link 20, but when it comes to that size,  the Portable is the better option.

The Link 20 comes in either black or white (pictured above).

You can’t go wrong with either of these speakers; it just depends on whether you prioritize audio quality or portability.

The Premium Option: Sonos Move

Sonos MoveSonos

If having the highest quality audio possible is what matters the most to you, then the Sonos Move is the speaker to buy. It’s not cheap by any means, but the premium audio quality it delivers for that premium price makes it all worth it. The speaker is fairly large and heavy at six pounds, which can be a pain when it comes to packing, but that’s just a sacrifice you have to make for superior sound.

The Move is also fairly durable as well. It’s rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IP56, meaning it can survive most forms of tame weather (rain and wind mostly). Do note though, the Move is merely water-resistant, not waterproof—don’t want to get that mixed up on a $400 speaker.

All the controls you’d expect are found on the top of the Move, and it can last for about 10 hours on a full charge. The Sonos Move comes in either white or black (pictured above).

The Premium Option

Premium Portability: Bose Portable Home Speaker

Bose Portable Home SpeakerBose

The Bose Portable Home Speaker is your best bet if you want premium audio quality with better portability. Being from Bose, you know that you can expect high-quality audio (even if it does come at a high price), but besides that, the speaker’s small build and handle make it ideal for travel. It’s water-resistant and features a durable build, so you can feel good about taking it out of the house.

Alongside the portable-friendly build, you’ll also find your typical media controls and buttons all placed on the top of the speaker for easy access. This speaker lasts for 12 hours on a full charge, and you can get it in either silver (pictured above) or black.

Premium Portability

Super Small: TicHome Mini

TicHome Minimobvoi

When it comes to portability, the TicHome Mini reigns supreme. This speaker is small and light (0.6 pounds) enough to never be a concern when packing. And while larger speakers may be able to give you better sound, if portability is your main concern, the Mini is the speaker to go with.

Besides that, it’s a fairly basic speaker with some simple media controls on top and a hanging strap. The battery lasts about six hours, and it’s rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IPX6, which means it should handle rain and splashes just fine.

You can get the TicHome Mini in black (pictured above), white, or teal.

And Finally: Some Battery Bases

If you’re on a budget, getting a speaker like this that’s friendly to the wallet can be a hard task. However, if you already have a Google Home or Google Home Mini lying around, you can actually convert those into portable Bluetooth speakers with a simple battery base. Google added Bluetooth audio support to the Home line a while ago, and these battery bases make sure the speaker keeps running even when away from an outlet.

It is important to note that neither the Home nor the Home Mini is built to be portable, so you’ll have to be more careful with them than the other speakers here.

Ninety7 Battery BaseNinety7

This base from Ninety7 is pretty simple, but it’ll keep your standard Google Home running for about eight hours. It also comes in three colors: black (pictured above), bronze, and white.

KIWI Design Rechargeable Battery BaseKIWI Design

Another simple base, this time from KIWI Design. It fits your Google Home Mini nice and snug and can protect it from minor bumps and falls, too. This base will keep your Mini running for about 12 hours and comes in three colors as well: Light Stone Gray (pictured above), orange, and dark gray.

We want to make it clear that this base is for the Google Home Mini, not the Nest Mini. The Nest Mini would be a fantastic speaker for this as well, but, unfortunately, neither Google nor any third-party vendors produce battery bases for it. You could always rely on an external battery pack and MicroUSB cable to keep your Nest Mini running out of the house, but that’s a pretty lame option and far from elegant.

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/46760/the-6-best-google-assistant-speakers-you-can-buy-today/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

These Free Stock Image Sites Are Picture Perfect

Free Stock Image Sites heroRawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Stock images are handy resources for bloggers, news agencies, geeky tech review sites, and a lot more, with ready-to-use images spanning general topics and niche needs alike. The fact that many of them are free is just icing on the cake! Here’s a look at the best free stock image sites around today.

Stock Image License Types

It’s a common misconception that all stock photos are free to use and don’t require you to ever credit the artist, which isn’t always the case. There are several licensing options pertaining to stock images—each with their own restrictions and rules—and learning about them can help you steer clear of lawsuits and other legal trouble. Copyright laws vary by country, so we’ll just briefly discuss the stock image licensing within the United States.

  • Public Domain: Images that are public domain are free to use and have no intellectual property law protection (think: trademarks, copyrights, or patents). Typically, these are either older images with expired rights, or images of any age with rights that have been forfeited by their owner. The Creative Commons license is a subset of public domain images, which may require photo attribution (i.e., crediting the artist) if you want to use them. Public domain images can be modified, copied, and distributed without creator permission. All of the sites listed in this article are public domain and free for you to use.
  • Royalty Free: Images with a royalty-free license are those typically offered by paid stock photography agencies like Shutterstock. Royalty-free images require you to pay a one-time flat fee to be granted the right to use the photo (but not ownership rights to the photo itself). This type of license also gives you permission to use that image again in the future if you want. Some content creators or specific websites may also require attribution if you use an image.
  • Rights Managed: Images with Rights Managed are under a limited-usage license, and are restricted to an exclusive aone-time use basis, with details like usage purpose, size, time in use, and others agreed upon beforehand between the customer and the owner. This purpose cannot be changed, and if you want to use one of these images a second (or third) time, you’ll have to pay for additional licensing. Rights Managed images typically cost more than those that are royalty free.

As stated earlier, we’re only focusing on sites with public domain images that are free to use.

Professional Photos on the Regular: Unsplash

Unsplash stock imagesUnsplash

Unsplash (Free) is a great place to find high-quality photos taken by both professional and semi-professional photographers. There’s a search bar right on the Home page where you can type in specific keywords, or you can opt to browse through over a million images covering a variety of topics, from technology and architecture to nature and mobile wallpapers.

If you hover over a photo, you’ll see a few basic options like favoriting, adding to a collection, or downloading the image. Clicking on it gives you more options like information about the image or options for sharing it, along with size options for downloading. Unsplash’s photos are beautiful, the website is easy to use, and new photos are added weekly.

Fresh and Popular Vibes: StockSnap.io

StockSnap.io stock imagesStockSnap.io

If you need bold photos that look fresh (and aren’t on everyone else’s websites), StockSnap.io (Free) is a great resource. From the homepage, you can search for photos, scroll through the entire gallery, or click on the Categories or Trending pages. Be aware that the top images in each category are often dog-eared with a star, meaning they’re actually sponsored pay-to-access photos from Shutterstock, but below those are images you can get free from StockSnap.

StockSnap also keeps track of individual image views and downloads, which makes it easy for you to see which images are currently the most popular. Hovering over a photo shows you its view, favorite, and download counts, and clicking on a photo shows a bit more information and lets you download the image.

A Vibrant Photo Community: Pexels

Pexels stock imagesPexels

Pexels (Free) is a community-loving stock image site known for taking submissions from artists around the world. Its wide variety of beautiful photos each have relevant tags, so it’s easy to find similar photos or search new categories. You can look at all of Pexels’ image collections from the Discover tab, and even search through their massive collection of stock videos.

Hovering over the Explore tab lets you refine your image search by image popularity, color, and even community-centric choices like artist leaderboards. Pexel doesn’t give much information when hovering over a photo, but clicking on one shows you all of its relevant details, and even the option to follow a particular creator if you like their work. Pexels isn’t quite as easy to use as Unsplash, but its images are beautiful and fun (and it’s a great website if you’re interested in contributing photos and participating in regular artist challenges).

Quirky and Creative: Gratisography

Gratisography stock imagesGratisography

Created by one guy, Ryan McGuire, Gratisography (Free) prides itself on being the home for quirky, creative, and un-boring stock images. You can find images by browsing large generic categories like animals, fashion, business, and urban; or get lost in curated collections about goofy grownups, funky food, or virtual backgrounds. The site does have a few sponsored third-party photos across it, however, so be aware as you browse.

Of course, Gratisography lets you search with more traditional keywords as well like nature and animals. If you’re fed up with seeing the same old stock images everywhere and you don’t want to perpetuate that cycle, let Gratisography help you connect with your inner weirdo.

Power to the People: Pikwizard

Pikwizard stock imagesPikwizard

Sometimes, it’s nice to have resources that cater to your specific niche, and Pikwizard (Free) excels at this. Pikwizard has some of the most authentic-feeling stock images of people just being people—working out, getting their hair done, or hugging a family member. Of course, Pikwizard has tons of photos from other super-specific categories as well like Baby Cats, Street Lamps, Black and White Pics, and Stack of Books, so whatever your creative needs are, you can probably find the perfect image with Pikwizard.

Hovering over a photo shows you how many times it’s been favorited or downloaded, and clicking on it shows you options for downloading and sharing, and provides a link for crediting the artist. Pikwizard’s built-in editing tool is actually pretty robust, too. It lets you apply filters; adjust transparency; crop, resize, add text, or shapes; work with templates; and more.

A Smorgasbord of Food Photos: Foodiesfeed

Foodiesfeed stock imagesFoodiesfeed

Food is one of those topics that has always been and will always be talked about, so it’s a good thing that Foodiesfeed (Free) is stocked up on all kinds of food images. From the Home page, you can search for one of the site’s more than 1,500 photos, or browse by categories like cake, coffee, pizza, or even healthy foods.

You can get something as simple as a picture of tomatoes or a bowl of berries, to beautifully staged photos of summer barbeque feasts or produce at a vibrant Asian market. The images look bright and exciting, and are perfect for blogs and business websites alike. You can download an image simply by hovering over it and clicking the download button.

Vintage Images: New Old Stock

New Old Stock stock images

Sometimes, a super old photo works just as well as a snazzy new one. The guy running New Old Stock (Free) understands that, and has scoured Flickr Commons to find actual vintage public domain images he then curates on this site. Clicking on an image takes you to its Flickr page, which should show all of its pertinent information, like format, rights, what collection it’s part of, how many views it has and so forth. You should link back to an image’s Flickr page to mention the institution who’s hosting it by name if you use it.

Unique, Not Stocky: Reshot

Reshot stock imagesReshot

Reshot (Free) embodies the saying “out with the old, in with the new” with its bold and unique collection of stock images. Its photos look more like a beautiful photo gallery or highly curated Instagram feed, not the same old dreary stock collection that’s smothering the rest of the internet. Typing in keywords to Reshot’s easy-to-use search bar brings up tons of fun photos that span a wide range of topics, so you can quickly and easily find one that’s perfect. Clicking on a photo shows you a photo’s info, like its resolution, title, download button, and a link to view its license agreement, plus you can scroll down to see related photos.

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/42589/these-free-stock-image-sites-are-picture-perfect/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

Samsung’s Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need

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Let’s be honest: There’s nothing exciting about basic tablets anymore. I don’t mean those fancy (and pricey!) convertible tablets like the iPad Pro, which can double as a slate and a laptop. I’m talking about the kind of tablet that lives in your living room (probably on a coffee table) that you use to surf the web…

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Source: https://gizmodo.com/samsungs-tab-s6-lite-is-the-cheap-tablet-you-need-1843739056
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Sam Rutherford