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Go back to school like a boss with these apps on Android

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Fall is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ve already done your back to school shopping. Now it’s time to get your phone ready for the school year. We recommend the following apps to get you started:

Takes notes together with Google Keep

You can try Evernote, we also like Milanote, but don’t underestimate Google Keep. If everyone installs the note-taking app: you’ve got a study group. Participants can take and modify notes together, in real-time, making it easy to deal with fast-talking speakers.

Schedule your studies My Study Life

This app is excellent for compartmentalizing your needs as a student away from your other planners. It features a bright functional interface, and since it’s tailored to meet your studying needs, you’ll be able to adapt all of your assignments for tracking.

Do Math with HiPER Scientific Calculator

There are a digital ton of calculators to choose from, we suggest HiPER because it’s one of the only scientific calculator options that are free and features a clean easy-to-use interface.

Learn a language with DuoLingo

Supplement your 101 courses with DuoLingo. It features support for dozens of languages in one of the more appealing applications available.

Stay off your phone with Forest

This one helps fight phone addiction by encouraging you to grow a virtual forest. When you need to be distraction-free plant a seed, the longer you keep the Forest app up on your screen without checking any other apps (Facebook and Reddit, we’re looking at you) the bigger your tree will grow.

Gain experience points and level up with Epic Win

There’s a bunch of apps that aim to turn your everyday mundane accomplishments into meaningless points, and yes they are basically just to-do lists. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun coming up with ways to reward yourself for your epic accomplishments. Like pie, or cake, or binge-watching Community.

Let us know what apps you’re installing to prepare for the school year in the comments.

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Netflix: Nielsen ratings for streaming shows mean nothing

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Nielsen, the company which has been monitoring television show views and providing ratings for over ninety years, today announced it was creating a new service casting light on “Subscription-based Streaming Content Consumption” — in other words, Netflix, Hulu, and the like.

Nielsen says it’s providing a service for a number of studios who have no idea what kind of streaming numbers Netflix has. As Megan Clarksen, president of Watch at Nielsen, said:

The significant growth of SVOD services in entertainment markets across the world has created demand from rights owners to understand the size and composition of audiences relative to other programs and platforms. The syndication of SVOD measurement as part of Nielsen’s Total Audience offerings represents a big step forward in terms of moving closer to transparency within the SVOD marketplace.

One way the company is going to track ratings is via Nielsen meters — specifically, via audio recognition software. According to the New York Times, the company listens via its set meters, devices connected to TVs in several thousand homes across the country. The meters record data and send it back to Nielsen nightly. So if you watch Netflix on your TV and you have a Nielsen device in your home, the company will listen and note it.

That’s more than a little creepy, not to mention an ineffective way of monitoring Netflix. Nielsen might be able to measure who’s streaming stuff on their set top box, but it has no way of measuring Netflix views on devices, such as laptops or tablets — which is the only way I watch Netflix these days. Not to mention that Nielsen only has meters in a small number of houses, compared with Netflix’s 104 million subscribers.

It might be for that reason Netflix is so dismissive of Nielsen’s attempts. As one spokesperson told Variety, “The data that Nielsen is reporting is not accurate, not even close, and does not reflect the viewing of these shows on Netflix.”

Nielsen has never been able to gain a foothold on a Netflix audience, and this isn’t the first time the company has attempted to ally with newer media to study modern viewing habits. Last year, it announced it was partnering with Facebook and Twitter to track mentions and shares of shows on the social media sites, using the data to provide “Social Content Ratings.”

According to the Times and other sources, Nielsen is not releasing the numbers to the public or press, so apparently the company is taking a leaf from Netflix’s book by veiling its numbers in mystery.

Netflix will occasionally release its own material on ratings and views, but always on its own terms. For example, yesterday the company put out a list of the most “binge-raced” series — meaning watched an entire season within 24 hours of its release. According to Netflix, 8.4 million of their subscribers binge race.

But other than these small offerings, Netflix doesn’t really release numbers very often. That might be why eight networks and studios have, according to Nielsen, turned to an older, well-tested method of measuring viewership.

We’ve contacted Netflix for further comment.

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Vine’s creators built a live trivia app that actually pays you

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HQ Trivia, a new app from the creators of Vine, is recreating the appeal of game shows for iPhone users.

The app debuted a few months ago, but has been gaining in popularity since then. The show goes live at 3pm and 9pm ET on weekdays. Host Scott Rogowsky asks a series of trivia questions, and players choose their answer, while chatting live. Players who get answers right can win cash prizes, and collect via PayPal.

Apparently you have to start the app on time to be able to see the show — no showing up late. This might be the one thing that puts it at a disadvantage over TV. When you’re late to a TV show, you can still get the gist of it. Still, if the reaction of players online is anything to go by, it’s got an addictive appeal.

It’s no coincidence the app resembles a traditional game show in some ways. Rus Yusupov, formerly of Vine and one of HQ’s creators, told TechCrunch, “We all grew up watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. That’s our basis for this kind of stuff.”

The thrill of TV game shows is 1) they’re only on at a certain time, and 2) they allow just about anyone to compete for a prize. HQ is one of the first apps to successfully bring that appeal to phones, and I can see several other apps copying this in future. Maybe we can bring back the fun of old shows like Password or Hollywood Squares in app form.

HQ Trivia is currently available only on iOS.

Vine’s founders are back with HQ, a live trivia game show app on TechCrunch

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Adobe’s new Lightroom CC feels like a breath of fresh air for my photography

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Adobe completely revamps Lightroom on the desktop to make photographer’s lives easier.

Adobe just conpletely redesigned Lightroom on the desktop to make photographer’s lives easier.

Adobe Lightroom, likely the world’s most popular editing and management app for photographers, is getting a massive overhaul today. The company today announced the release of a totally​ redesigned version of Lightroom CC, complete with an all-new UI, significant speed improvements, and a focus on cloud-based file management.

But before you complain about having to relearn your workflow, don’t fret – the traditional version of Lightroom isn’t going away anytime soon either.

Lightroom Classic

Lightroom is essentially becoming two products now. The version you know and (maybe) love will now be called ‘Lightroom Classic CC,’ and it’s getting some significant speed improvements and nifty new features. Adobe says Classic is not going away anytime soon, and it’s added a suite of new features and improvements to prove it.

Performance wise, Adobe says it’s tangibly improved on some of Lightroom’s biggest pain points including, application launch time, creating previews, switching between modules, switching photos, and using brushes. One feature I particularly like is the ability to use embedded preview files created by your camera manufacturers, instead of waiting for Lightroom to create its own.

The biggest new editing feature is something called a Range Mask, which helps easily modify your filters and brushes to only affect a certain portion of an image.. Say you want to darken or desaturate the sky in a landscape without affecting the rest of the scenery; the range mask lets you only apply your filter to a specific region without going through the hassle of doing precise brush work.

Adobe says more improvements are on the way, including optimized performance on high-end systems and high resolution monitors.

Lightroom CC

But the redesigned version of the app is much more exciting. It eschews the focus on folders and old-school file management for a cloud-based, multi-platform approach. It’s designed to work as intuitively as a mobile app, and more importantly, be just as fast.

Catalogs are gone and all your photos are uploaded to the cloud and linked to your Adobe ID. Like Google Photos, Adobe intelligently frees up space on your disk as photos are backed up to the cloud, and pulls them in quickly when you need them (you can manually sync photos and adjust how much local storage Lightroom is allowed to use too). And no, they’re not just previews – Adobe will upload full-sized RAW files.

This has a few benefits:

  • It makes managing your photos much less of a pain; accessing old photos is traditionally a hassle if your catalog extends multpile years.
  • It also allows you to use AI search, meaning you can look for what’s actually in an image – without having to create any keywords yourself – as opposed to digging through folder dates or trying to remember metadata.
  • You can edit all of your photos on Lightroom’s mobile apps, not just a few synced collections or photos.

The UI is also completely different; Lightroom CC has a more minimal, smartphone-era look. Most notably, Adobe got rid of the different modules, allowing you to finally organize and edit your photos in the same space. Search is prominently featured atop the app, making it easy to find images on the fly.

It features the same engine as Lightroom CC, and most of the same tools, but having used it briefly, it immediately seems much faster and more intuitive to use. There are even useful tooltips that pop up for beginners when you hover over a slider.

Unfortunately that “most of the same tools” bit might be the deal breaker for many photographers. The majority of the basics are included, but there are a several tools I regularly use that would prevent me from doing a full transition:

  • There’s no tone curve, a tool I use on every edit job
  • The Range Mask I just mentioned is coming to classic is missing
  • You can’t use presets
  • You only have basic toggles for fixing chromatic abberation or applying lens corrections
  • There’s no split-tone tool
  • You can’t select or adjust different RAW camera profiles
  • You can’t set color labels
  • You can’t view edit history
  • You can’t use third party plug-ins

So yeah, Adobe has a long way to go.

Still, it feels so much simpler than Lightroom Classic that I’m compelled to try and do as much as possible in the new app – the first time I’ve significantly changed my workflow in years. I’ve come to dread making some edits because Lightroom Classic can be so overwhelming with a large catalog. Lightroom CC, on the other hand, brings the simplicity I’m used to on mobile devices to the desktop. And the idea of being able to edit photos on my phone without remembering to upload them to the cloud in the first place is enticing.

Thankfully it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to access more advanced features when you need them, as Lightroom CC photos will sync back into Lightroom Classic. There’s also still an ‘edit in Photoshop’ shortcut, and you can sync your photos between the classic and new versions of Lightroom.

Which brings us to the pricing; Adobe is doing something a little different thing time around. There are now three plans catering to different types of users:

  • The new Lightroom CC plan includes Lightroom CC and 1TB of cloud storage for $10 a month.
  • The Photography Plan is the same as before, including Lightroom Classic, Photoshop and 20GB of storage for $10 a month, except it now includes the new Lightroom CC as well.
  • Then for $20 a month, you get all the above, except with 1TB of cloud storage.

They’re a sensible collection of plans, with the Lightroom CC-only option catering to new photographers, and the other one’s for everyone else.

That said, 1TB strikes me as a little low if Adobe expects professional photographers to go all in on the cloud. A full-time photographer could go through that in less than a year, considering the huge file sizes of many cameras shooting in RAW – let alone if you shoot any video. You can always download your photos and store them yourself, but that seems like it could be a pain in the long term – especially considering Adobe is trying to simplify our photo Libraries.

Still, it’s the most exciting change to Lightroom in a long time, enough to make me actually consider changing things up. Let’s just hope feature parity comes sooner rather than later.

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