Month: August 2013

6 most valuable uses for Facebook

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Facebook is a known productivity killer. However, it has one advantage over other apps: everyone uses it. You can use it for more than just cat memes and baby pictures. Here are some of the most useful things you can do.

As a side note, many of the features we’ll talk about are available on different versions of Facebook, but we’ll be looking at them in the newest layout featured here. If we discuss something that isn’t available to you, sign up for the wait list and the redesign should roll out to you before long.

Get more personalized search results

Facebook’s newest Graph Search feature is a little weird to get used to at first, but it has its upsides. Google is great when you want to get information from the internet at large, but Facebook can allow you to find out things based on what people you actually know like.

Schedule a meeting or special event
 
Everyone’s been invited to see their local band play every week or to celebrate Pi day. However, having access to everyone you know means that Facebook is the best tool for inviting anyone from your project team members to your typical movie night group to a shindig.
 
Curate relevant News Feed
 
We’ve talked before about how Facebook can actually have a great news feed if you make it so. Facebook has a nasty habit of distracting us with unimportant photos and junk.

By using Interest Lists, you can create custom feeds that combine notable people, sites, and Pages for a more specialized feeds. You can use these just like Twitter Lists to organize your browsing.

 
Collect every photo of you
 
Chances are, you have plenty of photographs of yourself on Facebook that you didn’t personally take. You can gather these up using a couple of apps and even automatically download them with IFTTT as they go up.
 
Hold a video chat painlessly
 
We like Google Hangouts. A lot. However, there is still some friction when all you want is to have a one-on-one chat with someone. If the person you want to talk to doesn’t have a Gmail account-as crazy as it sounds, there are fewer people with Gmail than with Facebook accounts-it requires an explanation.

With Facebook, anyone that’s on your chat list is eligible for an audio or video chat with almost no problem.

 
Share files with a closed group
 
We all know Dropbox is a great tool for sharing files. Fewer know that, within Facebook’s Groups feature, you can share files with other members. They’re capped to 25MB per, and there are certain files you can’t upload (including .exe files), but uploading files to Facebook Groups give you a central place that anyone within the group can access without having to deal with shared folders, permissions, or gathering up account information.

When you get past the usual Facebook tropes, it turns out there is a lot you can do with the site that is actually useful and helpful. Not only that, but it’s possible to limit or even eliminate all the junk. As with many other sites, the value you get out of Facebook is what you make of it.

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5 apps to increase your productivity.

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Best productivity apps for Android tablets

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Android tablets get a bad rap but there are actually quite a few apps that have been designed or optimized for tablets.

Here’s a look five best productivity apps for Android tablets

Wunderlist

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Wunderlist is already our top pick for Android to-do list. The app allows you to see your lists, details, and edit to-dos from a single screen on larger displays. It’s gorgeous, even if the skeuomorphic look is overstaying its welcome with the design-minded.

The widgets are also resizable which allow you to take advantage of screen space.

 
Google Calendar
 
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If you’re using Android on a phone, we recommended Agenda Calendar in the last app pack. For tablets, though, Google Calendar makes efficient use of all that extra space. In the Week view, you can still get a thumbnail look at your month as well as all of your various sub calendars.
 
Google Keep
 
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We’ve already exhaustively covered why Google Keep is a fantastic tool. The card-based design translates extremely well to tablets. You can choose either a single-column view which might work best on 7-inch slates, or a multi-column view that has a more Pinterst-like feel for larger devices.

Either way, it looks great and includes plenty of widgets.

 
Dashclock Widget
 
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Arguably, Dashclock and widgets in general are even better suited for tablets than they are for phones. With a variety of extensions that you can plug in, you can use this widget to keep abreast of everything in your digital life.

There are a ton of extensions available to supercharge Dashclock and on a larger tablet, you can turn this widget into a veritable control panel.

 
Quickoffice Pro HD
 
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Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to release a version of its productivity suite for Android just yet, but in the meantime, QuickOffice Pro HD does a great job of editing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs.

Coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard and you could feasibly do real work on a tablet. It’s a little pricey, but you can occasionally find it on sale for steep discounts.

 

At your service master: Smartphones as home automation devices.

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Me and Mobile’s take on catching trend of smartphones as home automation devices.

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Smartphones come with a lot of features and can be used to automate many things in our daily lives. Home automation is one such aspect that can add a new dimension to your smartphone utility.

In your daily routine you will find many instances when you reach your empty home and wish someone had switched on the AC or even simply the light before you arrived; or you could be waiting for a courier or something to arrive but suddenly have to rush somewhere. Home automation solutions also keep an eye on your home and alert you in case of dangers like fire or intrusion and even offer you videos of your home in real time.

Home automation provides solutions to such problems and more. However, while these solutions were earlier too costly for an average person; now, thanks to smartphone proliferation and improved capability the solutions are not just cheaper but also more functional.

While some of the bigger companies like Belkin have introduced switches that can be turned on or off remotely using smartphone based applications and cost just a couple of thousand rupees (though it is yet to be introduced in India).

There are newer companies like Zhome, Eloka, Smarthome and Smartautomation that offer home automation packages with complete security and automation starting at just Rs 53,000.

Smart automation offers a 1 BHK package at Rs 2.5 lakh, which includes 6 lighting control, 1 curtain control, audio video control, control via phone and 2 motion sensor packages for 2 and 3 bedrooms for 3 and 3.5 lakh rupees.
These solutions are not just remote control facilities, but also help save power by switching off appliances when they are not required. For instance, when in the morning the temperature falls the system switches off the AC while switching on the fan.

Most of us switch on one of the lights even when we are leaving the house for some days; with home automation this can be timed so that the light will turn on only when it’s dark, to give an impression that someone is home.
The solutions offered by these companies are customisable and therefore can be made to suit the customer’s cost and requirements.

Go Went Gone: How to find your lost phone.

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Ways to track your lost phone.

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Oh boy, now you’ve done it. Not only are you supremely hungover from last night’s rager, but your phone is nowhere to be found. Could you have left it at the bar, in a cab, in the gutter somewhere? Who knows! But don’t panic, there’s a host of apps that do. Here’s how to find your phone when it goes missing.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll recover your device, these tips and apps will put you in the best position to get back what you lost. Or, if it comes to it, to make sure no one can get at the information that’s on there.

 

Android Device Manager

Doesn’t matter if your phone is lost behind the couch or somewhere in Tahiti, your most direct option for finding a lost Android phone is Google’s newly introduced Android Device Manager (ADM) feature. Essentially an Android version of the iOS Find My iPhone service, ADM allows users to locate, track, ping, and, if need be, remotely wipe their devices-all from a web browser.

The ping feature will ring the phone at maximum volume, even if it is set to vibrate or silent. If you figure you’ve dropped it somewhere outside of your immediate vicinity, log on to the ADM dashboard to see its location, anywhere in the world, to within a 22-meter radius. And if you discover you can’t retrieve or recover the phone, ADM allows you to remotely wipe the device’s contents (you will have to enable Factory Resets prior to losing the phone though). Plus, it’s completely free and likely already installed.

The one shortcoming? ADM does not offer a means of remotely locking your phone. Ring and full-on self-destruct are your only options.

Bit Defender Anti-Theft

If you’d like a middle ground between doing nothing and obliterating everything on your phone from afar, take a look at BitDefender’s Anti-Theft app. It allows you to locate and erase your phone, as ADM does, but throws in a remote lock as well. This keeps your phone secure against the prying eyes and wandering fingers until you pick it up.

What’s more, Bit Defender can only be uninstalled by authorized users. If someone tries to bypass that by swapping SIM cards, BD will text the new number to a phone of your choosing, force the phone to answer your call, and then remotely wipe the phone via SMS command. Once you get the thief on the line, you should probably yell something to the effect of, “IF I CAN’T HAVE HER, NO ONE WILL” just before sending the self-destruct text. Drama! Excitement! Destruction!

These extra features don’t come free; you have to pony up an annual subscription of $4. But given that the full anti-theft service extends to all your devices-laptops, phones, and tablets alike-that four bucks is a good investment.

Lookout

Another solid freemium option is Lookout Security & Antivirus by Lookout Mobile Security. This total security suite protects your phone against loss or theft as well as provides continuous protection against a variety of nasty bits of online code.

For $3 a month (or $30 annually), you get the antivirus service, backup and restore features to save and reload your Google contacts, photos, and call history, and a swath of sneaky anti-theft options. In addition to the standard map-based location, tracking and forced ringing features, Lookout also offers Signal Flare, which saves the phone’s last known location when the battery dies, and the Lock Cam, which emails you a picture of anyone that incorrectly enters the lock screen combo three times.

Plan B

Bit Defender’s a great choice, but what if you’ve lost your phone without installing it beforehand? There’s always Plan B.

Plan B is a remotely installed, barebones tracker app. First, open a browser window and log on to Google Play. Install the app onto your phone via Play, wait ten minutes for it to download and install, then text “locate” to your number from another phone. The app will triangulate its position based on Wi-Fi and GPS signals and send you a single email if it’s sitting still, or continuously for a duration of 10 minutes if the device is on the move. You just have to keep texting “locate” until you catch up with it (and hope that the battery’s still going).

Find My iPhone

The original lost phone tracking service for iOS is still your best option. This free app locates and tracks your lost or stolen Apple devices-not just iPhones but iPads and MacBooks as well-not to mention ringing the unit, displaying a message for whoever finds it, and remotely lock or wipe the device altogether. The app is free on iTunes.

GadgetTrak

For a little more advanced protection, GadgetTrak offers remotely activated GPS location tracking, push notifications to trick a thief into giving away his position, and the ability to use your lost phone’s camera to take a picture of whomever took it from the comfort of your home. It’ll cost you $4, but that’s peanuts compared to a brand new phone.

I Can’t Find My Phone

Not every lost phone situation requires a full-on app assault to resolve; it’s just as often a matter of tracking down which pile of clothes your handset is hiding under. Open ICantFindMyPhone.com in a new browser window, enter your phone number into the text field, and the site will automatically ring your mobile. Just pray you didn’t leave it in silent mode. Where’s My Cell Phone performs a similar function as well. Both are platform agnostic.

 MissingPhones.org

This one’s a little bit more of a long shot, but there is, in fact, a universal lost and found for smartphones. If you know your lost phone’s IMEI (often found on the back of your device or on its battery, or dial *#06# to have it sent to you), you can register it here and hope that the kind stranger who finds it knows what MissingPhones.org is. And while it’s a bit of a hail mary, it’s not like it’s any less effective than the last real-life lost and found you’ve rummaged through.

An ounce of prevention
However useful these apps and services are, your best chances for success will come before you even lose your phone in the first place.

Connecting people:

Put your contact information somewhere on your phone that’s easily accessible. Whether it’s your email address engraved on the back (your resale value takes a hit) or putting it on your lockscreen (which doesn’t do much if your battery dies) or both, you improve the odds of getting your phone back tremendously if you just give whoever finds it the means to get in touch.

 Use a drunk phone:

Have an old handset laying around? Have a friend who’s about to ditch theirs for an upgrade? Don’t throw it out. Instead, keep it around for nights you might be more, er, primed to lose your phone, and put the SIM from your day to day device-the one you care about-into the beater. That way your friends can still reach you at your number on a wild night out, and losing it won’t be (as much of) a hassle.

 Get registered:

While it’s not as much help right now, by November the national stolen phone registry will be up and running. Carriers will coordinate with the government both to track phones reported as stolen, and to deny them voice/data access. While it might not get your phone back, it’ll at least increase your odds-and make sure that the thief doesn’t use your smartphone to steal your personal info or identity. There unfortunately is no singular, perfect solution for recovering your phone. The apps and techniques described above will give you a fighting chance for recovery, though. Until then, keep your phone close and don’t leave the bar without it.

10 amazing facts of smartphones.

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Things you never imagined smartphones could do.

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Today’s smartphones are blank canvases: manufacturers provide the hardware, and we turn them into magical machines with apps that transform them into musical instruments or games consoles, business machines or cat video players.

But it turns out we’re only scratching the surface. Who knew that smartphones make pretty good satellites? Here are ten uses for smartphones the makers probably didn’t imagine.

Smartphones forecasting the weather

Networking expert OpenSignal has discovered something interesting: the sensors in Android phones designed to measure battery temperature, light, pressure and so on can be used to generate surprisingly accurate weather reports.

Get enough phones involved and you’ve got a weather sensing network. Today the data just reports, but prediction is the logical next step.

There are medical applications too: “Imagine your doctor could instantly access data on which countries you’ve been in, the extremes of pressure and temperature you’d experienced, the amount of exercise you are getting, even the humidity where you live,” OpenSignal says.

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Smartphones powering satellites

In February, a Google Nexus One went into orbit – not in an astronaut’s pocket, but as the brains of the STRaND-1 satellite.

A joint project between the University of Surrey’s Space Centre and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, the smartphone-powered “nanosatellite” will run experimental apps to collect data from space.

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Smartphones saving the rainforests

Detecting chainsaws may sound like a novelty app, but it’s a serious business: in Indonesia, the non-profit organisation Rainforest Connection wants to use donated Android phones to detect illegal logging.

As new scientist reports: “The phones are outfitted with solar panels specifically designed to take advantage of the brief periods when light reaches the forest floor. Their microphones stay on at all times, and software listens for the telltale growl of a chainsaw, which triggers an alert.”

Smartphones as mobile medical labs

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed an iPhone cradle and app that turns the device into a fully featured mobile medical lab that uses the phone’s camera to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other organisms.

As RedOrbit reports [http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1112855945/smartphone-mobile-lab-with-new-app-cradle-052413/]: “The cradle contains a series of smaller versions of the optical components found in much larger and more expensive lab devices… although the cradle only holds $200 worth of optical components, it is just as accurate as $50,000 models in the lab”.

Smartphones driving cars

Google’s self-driving cars carry around $30,000 of high-tech hardware and sensors – but students at Australia’s Griffith University [http://www.griffith.edu.au/engineering-information-technology/school-information-communication-technology] reckon they can get the job done with a single smartphone.

Rather than LIDAR sensors and stacks of cameras, the students have built a prototype that relies mainly on the phone’s camera and built-in GPS.

Smartphones detecting chemical warfare attacks

Never mind anti-virus software: if the US Department of Homeland Security gets its wish, smartphones will soon run anti-chemical warfare software.

The Cell- All project aims to persuade manufacturers to equip smartphones with cheap chemical sensors – “a buck a sensor”, the DHS says – that can detect anything from chlorine leaks to sarin gas attacks. The technology is currently moving to the proof-of-principle stage to see if the idea is really practical.

Smartphone health screening

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has found a way to turn smartphone screens into digital doctors: the same mechanism that detects your taps and swipes could also detect proteins and DNA molecules, which also carry electric charges.

According to study co-lead Hyun-gyu Park, the screens “are able to recognize DNA molecules with nearly 100 percent accuracy just as large, conventional medical equipment can and we believe equal results are possible for proteins.” For now it’s a promising development rather than an imminent product, but the potential is enormous.

Smartphone rifle sights

Fancy something a bit more realistic than shooting games? How about a real gun with an iPhone for sights?

That’s what Intelliscope delivers. The $99 device is a heads-up display for hunting rifles, air guns and paintball guns that provides key data including wind speed and direction, compass details and ammunition levels, and it also offers digital zooming and video recording.

Smartphone metal detectors

The magnetometers built into many Android smartphones have surprisingly beneficial applications: as Medgadget explains, “Imagine having a metal detector handy when you, as an emergency physician, have an unconscious patient come in and you need to know whether he has an implant.”

The sensors aren’t strong enough for distance work – don’t expect to find buried treasure on a beach – but it’s an interesting example of useful unintended consequences of smartphone tech.

Smartphone miniature train windows for tiny little dolls

We know, we know. At last, our prayers have been answered! Ever since Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, smartphone users have cried “Yes, that’s all very well, but when will we be able to use our phones as miniature train windows for tiny little dolls?”

The answer, friends, is “now”. Thank you, Miniature Train Windows for i-Phone! Thank you so much! This may be the weirdest use of a smartphone we’ve ever seen.

Android experience for visually impaired.

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7 Android tweaks.

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The open nature of Android is a boon when it comes to modifying it to suit your specific needs. Here we list all the apps, accessories and devices that make it ideal for people with disabilities

Android , more than any other mobile operating system, should be the defacto standard for anyone with certain types of visual impediments. Not only can you choose from multiple devices (with different screen sizes), you can do simple modifications like change the launcher, easily automate routine tasks, use many different types of voice assistants, voice commands and voice-activated apps.

Make everything larger

People with myopia (shortsightedness) might have trouble reading small fonts, differentiating between icons and even typing on the onscreen keyboard. You can choose to go into the Accessibility settings and enable the ‘Show Magnifier’ function that lets you enlarge the text in a virtual magnifier, but its use is very limited. Thankfully, there are dedicated apps that can help. A free app called BigFont lets you increase the default font size by up to 300% for easy viewing.

It works on phones running Android 2.3 and above and shows a preview of the increased font size before you decide to use it. Samsung smartphone users can also try the free iFont app, which not only lets you increase the font size, but also allows you to install custom fonts on the phone (for better legibility). If you feel that the icons on your device are too small, get an app called Giganticon. It lets you place your favorite app icon on the homescreen and increase or decrease its size. For the onscreen keyboard, an app called Big Button replaces your stock keyboard with one that has large keys for each alphabet — this makes it a lot easier to see and tap the keys.

Customise your experience

One of the great things about Android is the unbelievable amount of customisation options you have. There are various launchers available for Android that completely change the look and feel of your device. Some launchers even let you customise the app drawer, fonts, icons and various other things. However, to just make everything larger, try Big Launcher. It has a free version with limited functionality.

If you like it, get the paid version for Rs 500. The ease of use that it offers is well worth the price — it replaces your home screen with large, easy-to-read tiles. It even changes the app drawer layout to make it easier to view. Your phone dialer, call logs and SMS inbox are overhauled with larger fonts. You can also customise the launcher with high contrast colour schemes and choose from three-font sizes to suit your vision.

Use more voice

It may take some time to properly configure and train your device, but using voice is a great way to control Android. You can launch apps, make calls, write text messages, set reminders and even capture photographs with just the sound of your voice. Google has its own free Talkback app for vision-impaired users (activate it from accessibility settings). This reads out the selected function or action performed on the touchscreen. There’s also Google Now (Android 4.1 +), a voice assistant which lets you search, dial numbers or send messages using voice. There are many other free apps with voice control.

Most of them require internet connectivity for voice analysis. We recommend a free app called Robin — one of the most responsive and intelligent apps we have seen. The app even alerts you of incoming messages and asks if you want them read aloud to you. If you want an app that works offline, check out a free app called Utter. You can control various functions of your device apart from the usual calling, launching apps and creating various custom voice commands Samsung has its own S-voice assistant that is preloaded on select Galaxy devices. It has fantastic voice recognition ability — you can use it to launch apps, compose and send texts, answer incoming calls and update social networks.

Automate everything

Not everything on Android needs a button press or a voice command — if there are certain things you do by routine, why not automate them? Automation involves certain conditions or triggers. For instance, you could automatically switch on your device’s Wi-Fi when you reach home/office or reduce screen brightness as the battery level lowers beyond a point. There are various ways to do this – Tasker (Rs 200) is the most popular app that you can use to get started. There are various online guides and videos to help you create your own tasks.

If Tasker seems too complex, you can try Automagic (Rs 200) which simplifies the trigger-consequence sequence using a flowchart – it also has a pretty handy tutorial built in. However, the beauty of Android is that if you would rather not spend money on apps, youll usually find án app that does the same thing for free. In this case, AutomateIt is a free automation app (although there is a paid ‘Pro’ version with more features for Rs 120). The kind of things you can do with automation is immense. Some of the triggers include connecting the charger, Bluetooth on/off, battery level, WiFi on/off, a particular time of the day, USB connected/ disconnected, outgoing calls, incoming SMS and so on. The actions that can be performed range from playing a sound, adjusting speaker volume, launch/kill an app, dial a number, send an SMS, shutdown or simply speak out the text on the screen.

External keyboards

Even on large screen devices, individual buttons on the keyboard can be hard to see. The best way to easily type text is with an external keyboard – not only are the physical keys larger but computer users will also be used to the placement of keys.

You can use any Bluetooth keyboard with Android devices. If your device has a USB host port, you can also use any commercially available (and inexpensive) USB keyboard.

Second screens

If you’re short sighted, the best way to see everything clearer is on a larger display. You can use any HDMI monitor or flat panel TV as a larger display — just make sure that your device has TV out functionality first. Many Android tablets have HDMI (or mini/micro HDMI) output built in, so you only need a cable. Smartphones with TV out tend to have MHL ports (for both USB and HDMI). In this case, you will need an MHL to HDMI adapter and HDMI cable.

Handheld magnifiers

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of the good old magnifying glass to help you see better. To make it easier to carry around, this Bausch & Lomb 2x magnifier is foldable, made of unbreakable acrylic and comes with a carry pouch.

The best part is that it can do double duty – use it with digital screens and when you need to read small text in print, it has a built in LED light. You can get it for Rs 4,800 from eBay Global Easy Buy.

Try Google hangout to learn new skills…

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5 Google Hangouts to learn something new.

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Google Hangouts is one of the best video chat and conference services, but it’s easy to forget that it’s not just for talking to friends privately. There are tons of public, open Hangouts every day that anyone can join, and many of them can teach you something interesting and new, expose you to new ideas, or just help you relax and live a little. Here are a few of them.

Language Practice Hangout

The Language Practice Hangout Community at Google+ was built by and for people who want to learn new languages from people who actually speak them natively, without spending a ton of money. By joining, you get access to a number of sub-communities specifically for people looking to learn specific languages, like English, German, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, and several more.
The community is well over 21,000 people strong, and hosts weekly live Google Hangouts where you can join other native speakers in a discussion to help boost your language skills through common conversation. They even have a well packed Google Calendar of events and hangouts here. Best of all, everything is free because it’s built by a community of people looking to help each other and, of course, learn something new.

ChefHangout

If you’ve always wanted to go to cooking school but never had the opportunity, ChefHangout may be perfect for you. Unlike some of the other regular hangouts here, ChefHangout isn’t free, but it is a bona fide cooking class with a select number of participants and a real trained chef leading the class inside a kitchen using professional equipment. Courses usually run about $20, and you can see the upcoming class list and schedule on their site. Whether you’re interested in learning to make vegetarian or vegan Japanese dishes, cook with fall ingredients, learn to roast a chicken or a turkey, master your knife skills, or something else, ChefHangout either has had or is likely planning a class on it.

Right now, there’s an upcoming introduction to cajun-style cooking scheduled for October 5th, a fall-cooking class that’ll focus on fresh autumn soups and salads on September 21st, and a few more later on. If you’re already at home in the kitchen and want something to test your skills a bit more, or you have friends you may want to learn alongside, check out their Master Series, which requires a minimum of five people in each class and aims to teach more advanced cooking skills-all using Google Hangouts as your primary learning tool.

Maker Camp

While it’s definitely winding down now, we have no reason to believe the folks at Make won’t do it again next year, or even do similar Hangouts and events in the fall or winter.

You can see some of the other previous events on their schedule, and go back through the previous events if you like. Stay tuned though, we know they’ll host more events soon!

NASA Science and Astronomy Hangouts

The NASA page over at Google+ is worth circling, if not for all of the amazing photos and historical tidbits they post, but also for their almost weekly Google+ Hangouts with their readers on topics including space exploration, living in space, and climate change and weather, to name a few. In many cases, the Hangouts are just live on air, meaning you can watch them from Google+, submit your questions, and have them answered on air, but in other cases you can actually join the panel, be brought into the show, and participate in the discussion or ask your questions in-person.

Best of all, the discussions are always open to the public for anyone to join.
But you can check their calendar here to make sure you don’t miss anything.

The Hangout Comedy Club

If you’re looking for a hangout that’s a little less informative and a little more relaxing, you may want to check out the newly announced Hangout Comedy Club, which you can join live as it happens
to hear stand-up comedians delivering jokes and punchlines from the comfort of your desk or couch. The series is actually a partnership between Google and the charity Comic Relief, and your real-time “lols” will turn into big bucks for the charity itself. Google describes it like this:

We’re partnering with the UK charity Comic Relief to bring you the first online comedy club-the “Hangout Comedy Club.” We’ve created a clever gizmo called the “Laughometer,” which will measure how much you enjoy the show and turn your lol’s into an optional donation to Comic Relief. They use the funds they raise to tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice.

To be part of the Hangout Comedy Club, simply join a Google+ Hangout hosted by one of our famous comedians, including Katherine Ryan, Sanderson Jones and Joey Page. Just like a real comedy club, if you’re brave enough, you can join the front row with up to eight others. If you’d rather sit out of sight, join a Hangout, add your friends, and watch from the safety of the back row. To us, that’s a pretty good way to raise money, and a great use of the technology. Besides, it’s fun, too.

Bonus: Hangouts Against Humanity

Finally, if you’re bummed that some of the ones above are either ending or don’t meet your definition of fun, maybe this is more up your alley. The popular party card game Cards Against Humanity is a lot of fun to play with your friends, but if your friends don’t live nearby, or you can’t get together to play, you might consider starting a Google Hangout with them and playing Hangouts Against Humanity, a version of the game that you can fire up inside a Google Hangout. You can circle the Hangouts Against Humanity Google+ page here to stay up to date on its development, and join the Google+ community here. From there you can get involved, join or host a game, and in general just have a great time.

Hangouts is great for talking to friends, but you can see it’s also great for learning new things, keeping up with the news, meeting people you may never have known, and having a little fun at the same time. These aren’t the only uses for hangouts either, and you can always use previously mentioned GPHangouts to find public hangouts hosted by individuals if you’re really daring.

Our suggestion if you’re looking for more is to poke around the Google+ Communities page and see which communities have regular hangouts on-air, even if they’re just broadcasts and you can’t get in on the actual panel, you can usually interact with the hosts and join the conversation.

Social media hot spots.

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The top 15 American cities for social media jobs (study).

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Sure, San Francisco is one of the top American cities for social media jobs. And New York is hot for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn marketers.

But some of the cities on the list might surprise you.

Indeed.com, the world’s biggest job site, has quite a bit of insight into which jobs are hot where. The site has about 16 million jobs on-site at any given time and surpassed 100 million unique visitors back in March of this year I it matches more people with jobs than CareerBuilder, Monster.com, and LinkedIn — combined). And it has just revealed a list of the top spots to find jobs in social media.

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Not only is New York top dog in social media jobs — it has a huge lead over the number-two city, San Francisco. At 1,938, New York job listings with “social media” in the title or description more than doubled San Francisco’s total of 869.  Chicago might be a surprise number three, with 575 social media jobs.

Social media is getting popular, apparently, with marketers.

“We’ve seen social media go from the dorm room to the boardroom in the last decade,” Indeed communications director Amy Crow said in a statement. “Jobs with ‘social media’ in the title really only tell part of the story — 13 times that many jobs include ‘social media’ in the job description … including marketing, customer service, product design, and human resources.”

Here are the top 15 cities in America for social media jobs, according to Indeed:

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  • New York, NY (1,938)
  • San Francisco, CA (869)
  • Chicago, IL (575)
  • Los Angeles, CA (545)
  • Washington, DC (463)
  • Atlanta, GA (416)
  • Boston, MA (386)
  • Seattle, WA (324)
  • Austin, TX (304)
  • San Diego, CA (190)
  • Houston, TX (178)
  • Portland, OR (157)
  • Dallas, TX (157)
  • Phoenix, AZ (157)

Interestingly, social media is actually declining as a general job title, Indeed says. That’s due, paradoxically, to its increasing popularity as social media jobs become more specialized — now social media marketing pros are focusing on Vine, or Instagram, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Vine is up 154 percent, video is up 85 percent, and Instagram has jumped a massive 644 percent.

That makes sense, because mobile is getting more and more important in social media. Searches for “social media” and “mobile” are up 84 percent on Indeed.

Digital Wallet: Welcome to cashless world.

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The future of mobile wallets is … digital coupons (study)

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Nobody likes to pay, but everyone likes a good deal.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of digital wallets, according to mobile marketing tech firm Vibes. Which means that mess of flyers on your front door could soon be replaced by a smarter set of customized and personalized digital flyers in your Apple Passbook or Google Wallet.

That’s a least a step up from six months ago, when PayPal was the only digital wallet provider that more than half of American consumers had even heard of.

Now, only 19 percent of Americans have no clue what mobile wallets are.

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And for those who aren’t currently using mobile wallets, the study says, more would try one in order to receive promotions and special offers than any other benefit. 50 percent think special deals are good reasons to try mobile wallets, while another 43 percent would like mobile wallets to organize their loyalty cards and coupons.

Mobile wallets typically offer one or both of two services: payment functionality and organizational capability.

Apple’s Passbook, for instance, allows users to store coupons, boarding passes, ticks, and loyalty cards, focusing currently on the non-payment side of the market. Google Wallet, on the other hand, is a solution for payment that stores all your current credit and debit cards in one app, allowing you to buy with Visa online and off. Google is likely launching the organizational side shortly with Google Wallet Objects, which will save loyalty cards — and perhaps more — to the app. It’s not clear if Apple is planning to add payment to Passbook at any point in the near future.

According to Vibes, 85 percent of consumers say that they’d receive benefit from storing and organizing offers on their phones, which could include digitized coupons, loyalty program points balances, and location-aware offers.

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And shockingly for an industry that has seemed to want to exist much more than consumers wanted it to, a full third of respondents said they have already used mobile wallets for non-payment functions. Not shockingly for those who have ever tried to redeem a Groupon only to meet a blank stare, only 39 percent of those described their experiences as “extremely positive.”

“This research confirms what we’ve been seeing in the mobile wallet campaigns we have run for our retail customers – a consumer’s phone is more than just a research tool,” said Jack Philbin, co-founder and CEO of Vibes, in a statement. “With emerging mobile wallet technologies such as Apple’s Passbook and Google Wallet Objects, consumers are able toorganize their phones in a way that works for them. Information is delivered based on their preferences, creating a huge opportunity for retailers to not only offer a mobile wallet program, but better educate their customers on how to sign up and reap the benefits.”

Get Set Click…!

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Top 5 camera phones – August 2013

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Camera phones today feature advanced optics, complex image sensors and a whole lot of new technology running inside them that can easily give some serious competition to any dedicated camera. With megapixels now reaching the 13 megapixel range today digital cameras are having a tough time selling in the numbers that they used to earlier. So while there is a wide variety of camera phones out there that offer near professional imaging quality, here we have shortlisted the top 5 best ever camera phones available in the market today. So read on to find out which you would like to have as your pocket powerhouse.

The new Apple iPhone 5

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The new Apple iPhone 5 is lighter, thinner and faster compared to its predecessor model, the iPhone 4S. In short, it is in every sense better and improved overall. Featuring a bigger 4 inch Retina display, the iPhone 5 features a new design and packs a faster Apple A6 mobile processor inside. The iPhone 5’s 4 inch Retina display comes with 1136 x 640 pixel resolution having 326 pixels per inch density. This Retina display is based on IPS panel technology and supports multi-touch. It also comes with finger-resistant oleophobic coating on the display.

The new iPhone 5 is 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter compared to the iPhone 4S. Sporting a new design, the iPhone 5 is 7.6 mm thin and weighs a mere 112 grams. Inside the chassis, it packs a new Apple A6 quad core mobile processor comprising of ARM Cortex A15 core architecture.

Apple has used the new iSight camera that features an 8 megapixel image sensor, which is 25 per cent smaller than the iPhone 4S’s sensor. Apple has also introduced Panorama mode, which will allow the user to capture images in up to 28 megapixel resolution.

Apple has added three high-density microphones for enhanced video recording in full 1080p HD video resolution. The front facing camera has been bumped to 1.2 megapixel and now it can offer 720p HD video resolution for Apple’s FaceTime video chat feature. Now users can engage FaceTime even over cellular networks as it was limited only to WiFi networks previously.

Nokia Limia 920

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Nokia has used the same unibody polycarbonate design as its previous generation of Lumia devices, which was nicely accepted by consumers globally on the Lumia 920.

Inside, Nokia Lumia 920 runs the Microsoft Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system with bundled Nokia apps such as Maps, Music, City Lens and more. Nokia has implemented PureMotion HD+ on the 4.5 inch LCD ClearBlack display with the default resolution being 720 x 1280 pixel. The phone is slightly curved at the edges.

Nokia has used a dual core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait mobile process with an Adreno 225 grahics chip, as well as 1 GB RAM and 32 GB on-board storage. Since there is no microSD card slot, the only way one can get more storage is by using cloud services.

Nokia has managed to implement PureView camera imaging technology in the Lumia 920. This flagship Windows Phone 8 device features an 8.7 megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and Carl Zeiss optics. A dual LED powered flash promises better luminance in low light conditions. Nokia has added optical image stabilization technique that makes it stand out from the crowd, and it has placed the camera assembly on a shock absorbing movable platform inside the unibody polycarbonate chassis. So whenever the user attempts image capture or video recording with a slight shake of hands, there is minimal blurriness in the resultant image or video.

Sony Xperia Z

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The Sony Xperia Z is a perfect mix of Sony’s cutting edge technologies with its superior design. Xperia Z is water and dust proof with Ingress Protection 57 certification, which also allows the device to shoot videos and images underwater. It can be submerged in water for up to 1 meter depth for up to 30 minutes without damaging the device at all.

Its 13 megapixel camera at the back features “Exmor RS for mobile”, which offers best imagery on the go. The Sony Xperia Z features HDR for both photos and film, and superior auto mode automatically activates HDR and noise reduction when needed.

It features a 5 inch display with full HD Triluminos technology display for better visuals. The phone is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. To supplement this configuration it gets 2 GB of RAM and Android Jelly Bean operating system.
The device features 16 GB of onboard storage along with an expandable memory card slot for additional memory.

HTC One

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The HTC One features a 4.7 inch Super LCD 3 display with full 1080p HD resolution. The display has pixel density of 469 ppi and Gorilla Glass for added protection against scratches. HTC One has an anodized aluminum unibody. Inside its 9.3 mm thick chassis, One comes with a quad core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T mobile processor and 2 GB RAM. HTC One offers 32 GB onboard storage but there is no memory card slot.

The most talked-about feature of the phone is HTC Zoe, which is a new image gallery with image editor inside. By default, the HTC One packs a 4 megapixel camera with Ultrapixel technique to capture high quality images with more clarity and less possible noise. The Ultrapixel camera also enables a plethora of features such as 360 degree panorama, high dynamic range, burst mode, time sequencing, and even object removal.

The smartphone comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with HTC Sense 5.0 user interface that brings a new home screen feature called BlinkFeed. This feature basically collates all the news, web feeds and social network updates to the home screen. HTC One has stereo speakers in its front and comes loaded with Beats Audio amplifiers that deliver high fidelity sound.

Samsung Galaxy S4

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Samsung Galaxy S4 is the first Android smartphone to feature an eight core Exynos 5 Octa 5410 mobile processor clocked at 1.6 GHz and the new PowerVR SGX544MP3 graphics chip. It has 2 GB RAM and comes in a 16 GB storage variant.

The Galaxy S4 features a 5 inch full HD Super Amoled display, built using Corning Gorilla Glass 3 technology. It is just 7.9 mm thick and is still slimmer than the 8.6 mm thick Galaxy SIII. In terms of weight, S4 measures 130 grams compared to the Galaxy S III, which weighs 133 grams.

At the back, Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13 megapixel camera with LED flash, autofocus and zero shutter lag features. This camera is capable of recording full HD videos and clicking high quality images. There is also a front facing camera capable of clicking high quality self portraits and video.
For connectivity, the Galaxy S4 has high speed WiFi support, Bluetooth 4.0 and infrared LED for remote control. The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with a layer of the latest Nature UX as part of TouchWiz UI