watchOS 5 Comes With a Bag of New Tricks

June 14, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

The Apple Watch is getting a brand-new OS update later this autumn with some exciting features. watchOS 5 was recently unveiled at WWDC 2018 and includes a plethora of new tools ranging from fitness upgrades to Apple Podcasts, third-party apps on the watch face and the beloved new Walk-Talkie app, which allows Apple Watch users to communicate with each other through their devices. Fancy. The nifty gadget was originally introduced to the world just over three years ago and has become the industry standard for smartwatches due to its ergometric design and extensive qualities.

Since the majority smartwatch owners tend to be rather tech-savvy and have a splendid adoration for yoga pants, Apple has capitalized on their consumer base by focusing heavily on the fitness component; watchOS 5 enables Activity Sharing for sweaty workout buddies to flex and boast about their endorphin-tastic 10 km run earlier that morning. The software update also includes some workouts like Yoga (we all saw that coming) and finally a Hiking component to log calorie metrics and steps. Its running feature has also received a small touch-up and can now count steps per minute in addition to emitting a vibrating metronome to help runners keep in sync with their tempo.

Apple Podcasts are finally available via the tiny device itself and no longer require you to carry your phone, so now you can keep your pockets empty during your morning jog or errand. If you’re a watch owner but have never indulged in podcasts, you should definitely take advantage of the hype and learn some new things on the fly.

watchOS5’s Walk-Talkie is a function that lets you chat with your friends using your wifi or data upon the push of a button. Extremely handy, or wrist-y for that matter. There are also some minor changes to the notifications tab, including the ability to quick-reply and check some metrics just from the pull down. Not convinced yet? Maybe you should give it a few more years so we can watch movies and play games on our smartwatches before making the leap into its territory.

More on the Apple Watch at Apple's website.

The Perks of Apple's New macOS Mojave

June 8, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

Apple recently announced macOS Mojave, the newest version of macOS that comes with a few key improvements set for release later this year. For starters, the update will be free for Mac users and includes a night mode that does just what you think it would—turn your screen into a darker swatch of colors. A lot easier on the eyes for whatever you, uh, might be viewing at night. Night mode also affects all native apps and programs, and even goes further by changing third-party plugins like Google Chrome into a darker rendition of their former selves.

A new feature called Stacks for the desktop allows you to stack all your different content into little groups, meaning no more messy desktops filled to the brim with different files that you were too lazy to organize. These stacks can also be arranged based on file type, date, or tag. Now, sorting is only a drag away. Stacks also automatically organizes random contents for you instantly, so if you’re an avid screenshotter or addicted to saving multiple versions of a project onto your desktop, they’ll all be organized for you. Speaking of screenshots, they’ve made several adjustments to the screenshot feature in the form of a countdown timer, cursor hiding function and other ways to organize and transfer your screenshots.

Next is the new Finder app that has a revised algorithm to help you find your folders quicker, as well as a sidebar that provides you with the file details on click. Apple’s Mac Store was also configured and received a make-over that makes it easy for users to interact and navigate, with new video previews and tips on various apps. Its tabs were reorganized into broader categories of Discover, Create, Work, Develop, and Play.

Yet most importantly, macOS Mojave introduces an overhaul to security that allows users to be a little less paranoid; all apps are forced to request for approval before accessing your camera, microphone, messages, mail and anything that might be of threat to your personal data. Its new Intelligent Tracking Prevention system blocks any unwanted sites from tracking your cookies or location. Analytics and functions of sites that prey on your browsing history or cached data will also be prevented from doing so, however you can turn this feature off if you feel that you’ve nothing to hide. The macOS Mojave beta will likely be available with the impending release of the iOS 12 beta at the end of the month, so keep your eyes peeled throughout.

Read up more about macOS Mojave on Apple's official site.

The Best Smartphone Games Part I

June 7, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

Games are a big part of the smartphone's functionality, and their popularity continues to soar with the influx of the new generation. In 2017, 50% of the App Store’s revenue in 2017 was from games alone, and this number will likely rise as technology develops and popular games like Fortnite are ported to the smartphone. But for the newcomers and casuals, what are some of the more gratifying games on the market?

We all know that there are endless games on both the App Store and the Google Play Store that serve only to temporarily satiate the void of boredom in the form of click and drag or easy puzzles; perfect for on-the-go, a quick wait at the doctor’s office or boring adults who shun the concept of “gaming,” yet indulge in these senseless apps in lieu of true leisure (Angrybirds, anyone?).

It’s pretty obvious from first glance that these games are flat out terrible. For starters, they fail to provide the level of storytelling that is prevalent in popular media like films, novels and AAA titles, instead replacing this with cheap humor and visuals that are reminiscent of a cross between Dora the Explorer and Caillou. Let’s be real, how is something like this even remotely entertaining? As a wise person once outlined (or I just made this up) —in order to be able to appreciate real gaming, the viewer should be able to immerse themself in a whole new world with a new perspective—making their own decisions and living through the protagonist as they saunter through the interactive story.

Luckily, there are several titles that meet these demands through the role-playing genre, many of which are ports or inspired by older games of the previous century. The 90s was an era of rapid development in games as the industry became more popular with the prominence of new computer chips and graphics that were combined with eccentric writing. The role-playing genre grew predominantly thanks to the influence of Japan and gave birth to some of the most nostalgic games in history. Whether or not you’re a fan of mobile gaming, I strongly suggest that you invest even twenty minutes into trying one, because you’re bound to get hooked and never look back.

1. Chrono Trigger

Originally released for the Super Nintendo released in 1995, this game features the theme of time-travel and the ability to alter the storyline through multiple endings all based on your actions; like most RPG games, the setting is in a fantasy world with monsters and magic. The inciting incident transports the protagonist to the past, prompting the player to travel through both the past and the future to save the world from prophesized destruction. The plot might seem a little cliché on the surface, but I can assure you that there’s much more to the story. You’ve likely heard of the name somewhere in the back of your head if you’ve researched anything about gaming; this game has been regarded as one of the best video games of all time, never mind of only its genre.

Illustrated by Akira Toriyama—known for the gargantuan Dragon Ball franchise—and composed by Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda, Chrono Trigger was created by a legendary cast and includes tens of hours of gameplay. Speaking of gameplay, the general mechanic of the game revolves around turn-based combat, just any other old-school RPG; or chess, to make an analogy to you filthy casuals. Its structure is composed of different towns and areas that are encompassed by the classic overworld, or world map.

The popularity of the game has led to several remasters and rereleases across different platforms, including Steam, iOS and the Google Play Store for $13.99. There are, of course, alternative methods to get the game if you jailbreak or root your phone, but it’s 2018 and everybody supports the devs now, right? And if you can’t figure that out, there are other platforms that you can play the game on, including your computer. The game has recently received a large update to its controls and tweaks to its graphics, so expect smooth gameplay when playing on your tiny touch screen.

This brief summary isn’t near enough to relay the depth and complexity of Chrono Trigger; its story, characters, vibrant detail and side content were all jam-packed into a tiny cartridge during its time. Now you can experience all of it in the comfort of your own phone, so try it for yourself and make a judgment. In the mean time, stay tuned for the next exciting entry in expanding your smartphone-gaming knowledge and repertoire!

Some Quick Tips to Keep Your Batteries Alive

June 5, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

There are a lot of urban myths and legends about smartphone batteries. Yet just how can we get the most out of our batteries and preserve their livelihoods to the max? For starters, smartphones use lithium-ion batteries, which are flexible and hold a great volume of charge–but slowly decay and shorten in lifespan from use. Kind of like humans, they get old and lose a lot of their cheerfulness and strength.

Many people believe that leaving a phone on for extended periods of time and charging it overnight instead of turning it off will burn out your battery. This is true to some extent; believe it or not, modern technology is smart enough to realize when batteries are fully charged and are designed to stop charging after they hit the 100% mark. However, charging your phone overnight does have some minor long-term detriments to the battery’s lifespan because it expends a small bit of energy to keep the phone on, which in turn forces the battery to fill the tiny gap with charge every now and then throughout the night.

This is rather negligent in the grand scheme of things and will likely take a few years to do any significant drainage to your battery. Moral of the story? Replace your phone every few years. But for real, it’s good to keep up with the trends.

Another big phone killer is temperature and risk of overheating. You should never stack heavy or isolative objects like books, blankets, pillows or heaven forbid, sit on your phone. Heat might warp your battery and will cause it to drain far quicker, or even cause it to overheat and snap, crackle, pop. Cold is the antithesis of hot when it comes to smartphones. Ever take your phone up the mountain while skiing? You probably remember it suddenly turning off when you were lost from your friends or needed to call somebody frantically for help, but it decided to turn off just as you dialed in the number. iPhones are notorious for this.

A method to ensure the accuracy and prolonged lifespan of your battery is to drain it to around ten percent before charging it up to max volume every month or so. This allows the battery to recalibrate its current volume and maintain a precise read on its capacity, which is especially useful if your battery is old and has a knack for turning off close to ten or twenty percent randomly.

For the record, you can of course, get a new battery for your phone. Batteries can range from $50 to $100 depending on the phone model, with older phone batteries selling for much cheaper. Or you could be thrifty and bring around a charger everywhere. Maybe it’ll be a good excuse for you to get a new phone, after all.

5G Networks are Coming Soon

June 4, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

5G networks are quickly descending into U.S. territory later this year, leaving Canada in dust and jealousy as they make slower preparations. The next generation of data includes peak speeds up to 20 Gbps, lower latency and far better connection–over ten times as fast in comparison to its 4G LTE brother. At minimum it’s predicted that the network will allow download speeds of nearly 100 Mb/s, meaning Youtube or Instagram videos will fully load in a pinch.

5G is transmitted using new technology through the 600 and 3500-megahertz bands, frequencies much higher in the spectrum that have not yet been approved by the Canadian government. You know, to ensure that they aren’t harmful and won’t make you lose any hairs. Meanwhile, U.S. service providers are already setting up their 5G satellite towers and antennas all over, quite literally (some angry grannies are already complaining about giant metal rods being installed near their backyard).

Since everything releases slower in Canada, highly anticipated services like 5G are no exception; it’ll likely see a launch closer to 2020, the same estimated time for its international release. Shaw Communications has recently conducted trials in Calgary and other providers are slowly following suit.

Of course with new technology comes other newer technologies as well. Current phones aren’t able to support 5G and so the mantle shall be passed to the next generation of smartphones in development with faster processors, newer cameras and better screens (less bezels, perhaps?). 5G is predicted to revolutionize the design of smartphones, due to the weaknesses that the network has in comparison to 4G; in exchange for the upgrades of speed and performance, higher frequencies are transmitted at a much shorter distance, and transfer through opaque objects with much greater difficulty. As a result, phones will likely reduce their metallic components and figure out new ways to place the antenna so that the signal isn’t impaired when you hold it in your palm. Prepare for the oncoming wave of “different” and far more expensive phones... along with more people glued to their screens thanks to the boost in data.

Mother Nature Helps You Stay in Focus

June 1, 2018  by Chenchen Wang

Staying focused has become a bigger and bigger task over the years thanks to the clutches of technology. Work ethic and productivity has slowly dwindled as people are constantly distracted by their electronics and browse social media, click-bait articles and Reddit. It certainly doesn’t help that we have the access of all of this in the palm of our hand–something that was relatively unthinkable in the past decade.

If you’re a procrastinator, you know how hard it is to get things done. You like killing time doing other things and leaving things to the last minute, despite having a sinking pit of guilt tucked away at the back of your mind. Luckily for you, with the advent of our infinite distractions, developers have procured some helpful ways to circumvent your procrastination (besides Adderall), in the form of “productivity” apps that exist for the sole purpose of helping the user stay… well, productive. This is where Forest comes in.

Forest is a cute little app that at first glance, seems like a game for a two year old; its witty icon and layout is reminiscent of a video game like the Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley. Delving further past the app’s vibrant and simplistic design, however, will unveil a fantastic system that yields utmost productiveness. The premise of the app is quite simple: the user plants trees and shrubs into a forest by setting a duration of time to work undistracted, upon which completed, will add a tree or plant to their forest. You obtain trees by creating goals, which each have a specified amount of time. Set a timer for ten minutes away from your phone? You get a dinky shrub. An hour of hard, strenuous work? A large sprucy tree sprouts into your garden.

As you build your forest to epic proportions, you also gain currency which you can use to upgrade your beloved forest and unlock new trees. You can share and compare your creations of nature with your friends and coworkers to let them know just how much of a workaholic you’ve been. The app is currently available for free on Android and $1.99 for iOS, a worthy investment even if it only keeps your attention for a day or two. There’s also a convenient Chrome and Firefox add-on if you want to plant trees from the comfort of your computer screen, free of charge. Time in time has proven that people are attracted to bright visuals, collecting and building things; Forest is no different. If you’re seeking a way to mitigate your idling thoughts and wavering workflow, take a gander at this helpful app.

Plant some trees with Forest for Android or iOS and get some work done!!!

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