Google Announces Google Gnome

If you’ve been to Google.com today, you may have noticed that there’s a blurb accompanied by a link toward the bottom of the homepage for a Google’s newest “product” – Google Gnome!

The blurb, which says “The smart yard you never knew you always wanted is here. Introducing Google Gnome“, takes users to a product detail page on the Google Store, which has a video (below) and some additional information about the product.

Toward the bottom of the page, users will also see that there are various accessories – many of which paying homage to actual products or pop-culture references, that can be had for one’s Google Gnome, including “Raign Gear”, “The Abominable Gnomeman”, “H2GnOme”, “My Lil’ Gnomey”, “Gnest”, and “Happy Camper”.

Following that, however, there is an advertisement for Google Home, which will take users to the product detail page for an actual Google product, which can be purchased for $129.

And, if you look closely, the very last line of text before the Google Store footer says: “Google Gnomes are real, but only in our hearts — for now. Happy April Fools’!”

Another well-done April Fools’ Day prank by Google.

It’ll be interesting to see what sorts of April Fools Day pranks other tech companies will be doing today, as well, so remember to keep an eye out when visiting your favorite websites! Happy April Fools’ Day, all!

Samsung Announces Galaxy S8 and S8+

This past Wednesday, at their 2017 Unpacked Event, Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, their new flagship Android phones. The new devices include an updated look from last year’s Galaxy models and some new and interesting features.

Given this announcement, lets take a look at some of the specs of these new devices:

Display

The first thing that stands out is that the new Galaxy phones will feature what Samsung is calling the “Infinity Display”, which is an end-to-end screen that wraps around the edges of the phone. This is similar to the current Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which also features a curved glass display.

The display on the Galaxy S8 is a 5.8 inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 (at 570 ppi), while the display on the larger Galaxy S8+ model is a 6.2″ Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 (at 529 ppi).

Camera

The rear camera on both the Galaxy S8 and S8+ is a dual pixel 12 MP camera, with optical image stabilization and a F1.7 aperture. The front facing camera has an 8 MP sensor, also with an F1.7 aperture. Both cameras allow for video digital image stabilization and HDR, as well as for selective focus, which enables users to achieve the Bokeh effect (focused subject with a blurred background).

As for video, both devices can shoot 4K video at 30 FPS, 1080p at 30 or 60 FPS, and 720p at 30 FPS. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though there’s any optical zoom, but there is the option to use up to 8x digital zoom, if one so chooses.

Processor

Depending on one’s country and cell service provider, the phone’s processor could be either an Octa-core (2.3GHz Quad + 1.7GHz Quad), 64 bit, 10nm processor or an Octa-core (2.35GHz Quad + 1.9GHz Quad), 64 bit, 10nm processor.

Memory

Both the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will come with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, especially when compared to some other devices (like the iPhone, which has up to 256 GB of internal storage), the phones do have MicroSD card slots, which allow for up to 256 GB of expandable storage.

Operating System

These devices should be shipping with Android 7.0 (Nougat), which is the latest major version of the operating system (though, technically Android 7.1.1 is the latest release at the time of this writing).

Audio

Unlike the latest iPhone models, the new Galaxy devices will come with a headphone jack, with a pair of earphones included with the device.

Colors

According to Samsung’s website, the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ will come in five colors, which include midnight black, orchid gray, coral blue, arctic silver, and maple gold.

For more information regarding the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, please check out Samsung’s website (where this information was sourced from).

Apple Product Updates

Earlier today, Apple made announcements regarding updates to several of their product lines, including the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch lines.

While many of the updates are only small ones, it’s nice to see that there are some new offerings available, including:

(PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Apple unveiled a new (PRODUCT)RED special edition iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus earlier today, with each purchase of one of these phones contributing to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programs and helping to deliver an AIDS-free generation.

While the (PRODUCT)RED version of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have the exact same specs as the standard version that was released last September, this new version sports a slick red color and has (PRODUCT)RED branding on the back of the phone, under the “iPhone” branding that comes on all iPhones 7s.

iPhone SE Storage Upgrades

While Apple’s smaller iPhone, the iPhone SE, didn’t receive any real hardware upgrades this time around, Apple did bump up the storage capacities from 16 GB to 32 GB on the entry-level model and from 64 GB to 128 GB on the higher-storage model.

This is great news for those who like to store a lot of music, photos, videos, etc. on their phones, but who do not want to carry around a phone as large as the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.

Apple Releases 9.7 Inch iPad and Discontinues the iPad Mini 2

Today’s announcement saw the release of a new iPad model, simply deemed the “iPad”, which starts at $329 for the 32 GB base model (the next model up, the 128 GB version, starts at $429).

The specs for this new iPad include a 9.7 inch Retina display, a 64-bit A9 chip, an 8MP camera, and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. While this new version of the iPad is somewhat similar to Apple’s previous iPad Air models, it sports a newer (and faster) processor, but is actually a bit thicker and does not have a laminated screen, like we saw in previous models.

Given the price drop, I think $329 is a decent price for such a device, even if the screen is not as “good” as previous models.

Apple also discontinued the iPad Mini 2, though there have been a few iterations of the smaller iPad since the second generation iPad Mini was released.

Clips for iOS

Clips is a new iOS app (that’s currently listed as “Coming Soon” on Apple’s website) that will enable users to make and share fun videos that include text, effects, and graphics, among other features. Users will then be able to share their videos with family and friends using Messages, or can upload it to their favorite social media platforms, should they desire.

New iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and SE Cases 

Another part of Apple’s announcement was that the company has updated the case line-up for the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and the iPhone SE. Customers can now purchase both silicon and leather cases in several additional colors.

New Apple Watch Bands

Another one of Apple’s updates included the release of several new bands for the Apple Watch, including additional leather and sport band options. Included in this new offering are the Nike Sport bands that were previously only offered on the Apple Watch Nike + model of the watch.

Many thanks to /u/sandiskplayer34 on Reddit, who posted a great list of all of today’s Apple updates. It made it easy to find the information needed to write this post. Also, thanks to Paul Thurrott who inspired this post idea, given that he wrote a similar post over on Thurrott.com.

Favorite Apps 2016

With 2016 drawing to a close in just several hours, it’s time, once again, for the annual TechnicalCafe.com Favorite App list, showcasing some of my favorite apps that I’ve used over the past year, and explaining why they were chosen.

The apps listed below span a variety of categories and uses, and while not all of them were created or released in 2016, they were some of the apps that I frequently during the course of the last year or so.

In no particular order, here is the TechnicalCafe favorite apps list for 2016:

Calendars 5 – $6.99 (iOS)

calendars5-1

Calendars 5, by Readdle, is a calendar app that can be synced with both iOS and Google Calendar and can also be used for managing your tasks with the app’s built in task manager (that also syncs with iOS Reminders and Google Tasks).

One of the great features about Calendars 5 is the natural language processing that is built into the app, which makes it easy to enter an appointment into one’s calendar. For example, one can add an event to their calendar by entering something like ” Wednesday 9:30 AM – 10:30 Dentist Appointment”, which will create an event for the next Wednesday from 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM, making it easy to enter appointments and events in one’s calendar.

Calendars 5 also enables users to view events and tasks in several views, including “List”, “Day”, “Week”, and “Month” views, with the “Month” view being particularly nice, in my opinion, as you can see what you have going on for the month, like you would be able to with a traditional desk or wall calendar.

Google Calendar – Free (iOS | Android)

google-calendar-1

Google Calendar’s official iOS app, which launched last year, is another great app for viewing and managing your Google Calendar.

Like with Calendars 5, users can use natural language to enter events, using phrases like “Work 9:00 – 5:00 1/3/17”. And with several views, including “Schedule”, “Day”, “3 Day”, “Week”, and “Month” view, users can easily see what events are upcoming on their schedules.

Users can also use the Google Calendar app to add goals and reminders to their schedules, which can make it easier to try and get things done, while also keeping all of the aspects of one’s schedule in the same place.

Alien Blue – Free (Discontinued) (iOS | Android)

Alien Blue is an app for accessing Reddit, but has since been discontinued following the release of the new official Reddit app, available for iOS and Android.

Despite the fact that there’s a new official app for browing Reddit, I still find myself using Alien Blue quite frequently, given that I’m used to using the app and am familiar with many of its features.

Evernote – Free (iOS | Android)

Evernote is an app that enables users to manage notes, to-do evernote-1lists, and more, with everything being synced across multiple devices, making it accessible both at your computer and on the go.

Users can collaborate on notes with other users, and can even share notes publicly, should they choose to do so. There’s also the option to chat with those who are working on notes with you, making it easy to dicuss and understand your notes and other items that are being worked on in collaboration with others.

Evernote also offers a paid version, which includes a variety of
upgrades, including the ability to use Evernote on more than two devices, increased upload limits, offline access to one’s notes, and more.

Personally, I use the free version of Evernote and am pretty happy with the service. In fact, Evernote has pretty much replaced the native “Notes” app on my iPhone, as I enjoy being able to take and sync notes across my devices, and also enjoy the desktop access to my notes (via the Evernote website or desktop application), in addition to being able to access my notes using the app.

Snapchat  – Free (iOS | Android)

Snapchat, by Snap, Inc.,  is a free app that enables users to send photo, video, and text messages to one another, with the caveat that the messages disappear once they’ve been opened. With a variety of filters that can be used to enhance one’s photos and videos, Snapchat offers users a fun way to communicate, beyond that of what traditional text messaging provides.

Personally, I use Snapchat almost daily and think it’s a lot of fun to be able to send messages back and forth with friends and family. It can be quite a bit of fun to experiment with the variety of filters and effects that are available within the app, and it can also be just as fun to see what my friends and family members come up with while using them.

Microsoft OneDrive – Free (iOS | Android)

onedrive-1OneDrive, by Microsoft, is a free cloud-based storage solution that enables users to create and store documents in the cloud. In addition, users can upload photos, videos, and other files and documents and keep them synced across all of their devices.

The free plan offers users 5 GB of storage, with paid storage plans available, should users desire additional storage space. One of the best features about OneDrive is that users can set it to automatically back up photos from their phone’s camera rolls to the service, so that should something happen to their phone, their photos and videos will be stored in the cloud and can be downloaded and viewed again.

I’ve been using OneDrive for the past several years and have found it to be a great place to store photos and videos, and have recently upgraded to a paid plan so that I can continue to backup and store my ever-growing photo and video library online.

Mint – Free (iOS | Android)

Photo Dec 28, 12 40 12 AMMint, by Intuit, is a free service that enables users to keep track of their money and finances, including spending, income, budgets, and more.

With Mint, users can add multiple accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards, etc. and see how their money has been used and where it has been spent over various time periods, thanks to a variety of helpful metrics and graphs.

Users can also create and view budgets, with default budgets being provided, in order to better keep track of spending within certain categories.

Wunderlist – Free (iOS | Android)

wunderlist-2

Wunderlist, a to-do and reminders app that was acquired by Microsoft last year, is on the list again, as it enables users to keep track of tasks and reminders across multiple devices, including desktop, mobile, tablet, and even on wearables, like the Apple Watch.

Like with the native iOS notes app, Wunderlist enables users the option to have multiple task lists and also enables users to set due dates, add notes, and even have nested tasks, if desired.

Wunderlist requires that users sign up for a free account, which can be used to sign into the service and view tasks on multiple devices. Users can share their lists with others, and can also invite others to view and modify their lists, as well.

1Password – Free (iOS | Android)

1password-3Given the increase in the amount of usernames and passwords that we must remember today, 1Password, by Agile Bits, is a great app to have, as it can help users to safely and securely store their passwords all in one place.

Protected by encryption that can only be unlocked by using a master password, all of a user’s passwords can be safely stored in 1Password, leaving the user to only have to remember their master password, which unlocks the app. If you’re thinking “what will happen if I lose my phone?”, 1Password also offers users the option to back up their credentials to one of several cloud-based services (iCloud, Dropbox, etc.), with the backup also being encrypted so that there is no need for anyone to worry about their passwords being seen by prying eyes.

Users can also store other data within 1Password, including secure notes and card numbers, among a variety of others. There’s also a paid pro version of 1Password that offers additional features, should users desire them.

I’ve been using 1Password for a while now, and find myself using it pretty frequently, especially when I’m trying to log into a service that I don’t regularly use. Given that the app is so helpful for remembering passwords, I purchased the pro version (via an in-app purchase), and am quite happy with the app overall.

Dark Sky – $3.99 (iOS)

dark-sky-1Dark Sky is a weather app that offers a variety of useful information and features, above and beyond those offered by most standard weather apps.

In addition to providing temperature and precipitation information, Dark Sky also provides timelines as to when users can expect precipitation to begin or stop, as well as where the nearest precipitation is in relation to the user. Users can also see other information related to the weather forecast on a timeline, including temperature, wind speed, and more.

While Dark Sky has a pretty hefty price tag, as far as apps go, I think the purchase is definitely worth it if you’re looking for a robust weather app with a variety of useful and interesting features.

While the apps above were the ones that I ultimately decided to include in this post, there were several other apps that were also in consideration, which include: Reminders (native iOS app), Health (native iOS app), Activity (native iOS app), and Scanner Pro (by Readdle – iOS).

If you’re interested in what apps made the list in previous years, I invite you to check out the following links to see what apps were chosen in: 201520142013, 2011, and in 2010.

We hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Year and would like to thank everyone for visiting the TechnicalCafe.com blog and the TechnicalCafe YouTube channel and for taking the time to read, view, and comment on our content! See you in 2017!

Favorite Apps 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time for the annual TechnicalCafe “Favorite Apps” post, where I talk about some of the apps that I have been using over the past year or so and why they are considered my favorites.

In no particular order, here is a list of some of my favorite apps that I have used throughout the course of 2015:

Tweetbot 4 – $4.99 (iOS)

Screenshot of Tweetbot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TweetBot 4, by Tapbots, is the latest version of TweetBot and provides a great way to view, post, and manage tweets, with users being able to do so by using a variety of touch gestures, such as swiping to view a conversation, etc. Using the five buttons at the bottom of the interface, one can easily view tweets, manage conversations, interact with followers, and more, with two of these buttons being user-customizable!

Alien Blue – Free (iOS)

Screenshot of Alien Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alien Blue, the official iOS Reddit app, is my go-to way of accessing Reddit using my iPhone. With Alien Blue, users can view and post Reddit threads, as well as comment on existing ones. Additionally, the app includes support for viewing images from within the app itself, making it easy to enjoy the Reddit experience all within one app. A built-in browser also makes it easy to view articles and what not that may be posted, making it easy to view Reddit posts, articles, images, videos, and more, without having to use more than one app.

Calendars 5 – $6.99 (iOS)

Screenshot of Calendars 5Screenshot of Calendars 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendars 5, by Readdle, is a full-featured calendar app for iOS, which enables users to easily view and manage their schedules on the go. Calendars 5 supports syncing with Google Calendar, Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo!, AoL, as well as other calendars.

Sunrise Calendar – Free (iOS | Android)

Photo Dec 28, 9 40 06 PM Screenshot of Sunrise Calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise Calendar, which was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, is a great calendar app that can be used to keep track of one’s schedule, be it for school, work, or other events that users wish to keep track of. Sunrise offers two views of one’s events – a schedule view that enables users to view a schedule of upcoming events by day of the week, along with weather information, and a calendar view that shows three days at at time and what events are scheduled during that day and for how long.

Wunderlist – Free (iOS | Android)

Photo Dec 28, 9 40 20 PM Screenshot of Wunderlist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wunderlist, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, is a free service that enables users to create to-do lists and reminders, in order to keep track of tasks. Users can create their own lists, group lists into folders, and can even share lists with other users. There is also a pro version of Wunderlist, should one want additional features, such as unlimited assigning, unlimited file size, unlimited subtasks, and the option to set 10 additional background images.

1Password – Free (iOS | Android)

Photo Dec 28, 9 42 24 PM Screenshot of 1Password

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1Password, by AgileBits, is a password manager available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows, which can be used to securely and conveniently store one’s passwords and other important information.

With 1Password, users no longer have to remember all of their account names, passwords, and other sensitive data, as it can be securely stored on one’s devices, with access only being granted when the correct master password (or fingerprint, in the case of Touch ID) is entered. Data can be synced across iCloud, Dropbox, WiFi, and via folders on Mac OS X, and is encrypted using 256-bit AES encryption so that one can ensure their information is safe and secure.

Pushbullet – Free (iOS | Android)

Screenshot of Pushbullet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushbullet is an app that enables users to sync notifications, messages, and other data across the various devices that one may own, including iOS and Android devices, computers, and tablets, making it easy to send files, links, and more between devices. There are a variety of free apps and extensions available, for a variety of browsers, platforms, and devices, that make using Pushbullet easy.

MyFitnessPal – Free (iOS | Android)

Screenshot of MyFitnessPal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MyFitnessPal is a free service that is offered through both iOS and Android apps, as well as via the MyFitnessPal website, that enables users to keep track of various health and fitness related data, including food intake, exercise data, weight, and more, with the goal of helping to keep users healthy and in shape.

Users can search the MyFitnessPal database for various food items and log them, in order to keep track of what foods they have consumed throughout the day, as well as what nutritional values each food item possesses. Perhaps one of the best features of the mobile app is that users can use their phone’s camera to scan the barcode of a variety of foods, which will automatically recall it from the database. Should an item not be in the database already, or should a user want to enter a custom food item, users can create a new entry for their logs.

Mint – Free (iOS | Android)

Photo Dec 28, 12 40 12 AM Screenshot of Mint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mint, by Intuit, is a free service that enables users to keep track of their money and finances, including spending, income, budgets, and more. With Mint, users can add multiple accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards, etc. and see how their money has been used and where it has been going, thanks to a variety of helpful metrics and graphs. Users can also create and view budgets, with default budgets being provided, in order to better keep track of spending within certain categories.

If you’re interested in what apps made the list in previous years, I invite you to check out the following links to see what apps were chosen in: 20142013, 2011, and in 2010.

What were your favorite iOS and Android apps that you have used in 2015? Why were they your favorites? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below!

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, fun, and safe New Year! Thank you for visiting the TechnicalCafe.com blog and TechnicalCafe YouTube channel, and for reading and viewing our content, as well as for taking the time to leave your feedback on the blog and videos; it’s greatly appreciated! Without the readers and viewers, TechnicalCafe would not be the website and channel that it is today!

 

Google Reorganizes as Alphabet

Alphabet Homepage (abc.xyz)

Alphabet Homepage (abc.xyz)

Recently, in a blog post dated August 10, 2015, Google made an announcement, explaining that the company would be reorganizing into a new company called Alphabet, which will be a sort of holding company for other, smaller, companies.

Google, of course, will be the largest of the companies run by Alphabet, albeit it was said that Google will be “slimmed down”, with companies that are not related to Google’s main search product being put under Alphabet, instead. Examples of this would be Google’s health research and products, such as Calico, which is focused on longevity and not search. Other companies include Google’s X Lab, Google Ventures, and YouTube, among others.

Alphabet will be run by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as the CEO and President, respectively. Each company under the Alphabet umbrella will also have their own CEO, with Sundar Pichai being chosen as Google’s new CEO.

Additionally, Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly traded entity, with all shares of Google being automatically converted into Alphabet Inc. shares, with all of the same rights. Despite the reorganization, Google’s two share classes will still be traded on NASDAQ as GOOGL and GOOG.

While this is an interesting change, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about seeing any major changes in the Google services that we use, and they way they work or are offered to customers. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, and what companies Alphabet will be able to grow and what they will be able to do with these companies.

For more information about this reorganization of Google into Alphabet Inc., you should check out the Official Google Blog or the Alphabet (abc.xyz) website.

What do you think about the reorganization of Google into a the new company, Alphabet Inc.? Please feel free to post your comments and questions in the “Comments” section below!

 

Apple WWDC 2015

Earlier today, Apple held their annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote in San Francisco, CA, where various updates to Apple product lines and software were announced, in addition to the announcements of a variety of new features.

Among the announcements were an update to OS X, to a new version called El Capitan, the next iteration of Apple’s iOS, iOS 9, Apple’s next version of their watch operating system, watchOS 2, as well as a new music service, called Apple Music.

Given that there was so much information, this blog post won’t focus on the information itself, but rather, will be a sort of aggregator of information and resources where you can find more information about the announcements at WWDC15.

WWDC15 Keynote Address

The WWDC15 Keynote address, which was broadcast live on the Apple website from San Francisco, can be viewed at the link below. (At the time of this post, the replay video is yet available.) Additionally, highlights from the Keynote address are also available in the form of text and photo-based posts.

http://www.apple.com/live/2015-june-event/

OS X El Capitan

Information regarding the newest version of Apple’s computer operating system, OS X El Capitan, which will be released this Fall, can be viewed at the link below, which is to a preview page on the Apple website.

http://www.apple.com/osx/elcapitan-preview/

iOS 9

The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9 will include some exciting new features, including multitasking, a new News app, additional APIs, and more. For more information regarding all of the new features and what not that will be included in iOS 9, there is a preview page on the Apple website, which is linked below.

http://www.apple.com/ios/ios9-preview/

watchOS 2

The Apple Watch’s operating system will also be receiving an update this Fall, with the announcement of watchOS 2, which will include additional watch faces to choose from, customizable watch face complications, faster and more powerful apps, and more. More information about watchOS 2 can be found at the link below, also to a preview page on the Apple website.

http://www.apple.com/watchos-2-preview/

Apple Music

Apple Music, another new service announced at WWDC15, will provide a variety of new features and services related to how users listen to and share music, as well as how music artists and creators connect with fans. Beats 1 is a new radio station, with people like Zane Lowe, Julie Adenuga, and Ebro Darden behind it, that was announced.

Membership to Apple Music will start at $9.99 per month for an individual, and $14.99 per month for up to a 6 person family, giving them “access to the full Apple Music library, expert recommendations, our take on the best new music, and unlimited skips on our radio stations.”

More information regarding Apple Music, which will become available on June 30, 2015, can be found at the Apple Music website, which is linked below.

http://www.apple.com/music/membership/

Additional News and Resources

In addition to the preview pages offered by Apple, there are other sources of information regarding today’s WWDC15 updates, including live video coverage by TWiT.tv and Chris Pirillo of LockerGnome, as well as coverage by MacRumors.com and TechCrunch.com, as well as Twitter coverage by Marques Brownlee of the MKBHD YouTube Channel and Michael Kukielka of the DetroitBORG YouTube channel.

TechnicalCafe also provided some coverage during the Keynote, on the TechnicalCafe Twitter account, as well as on my personal Twitter account (@Jamiemcg).

Thank you for reading this post, and if you have any more information or resources that you would like to see added, please feel free to leave a comment below!