Here I will be posting my Digital Culture news and short observations of events occurring in Uganda, in Holland or otherwise things that I have noticed and have made an impression on me or raised questions or a strong reaction on my part including hilarious jokes, images and videos.
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Ah, Gmail. It has become an integral part of our connected lives, ingrained in our daily flow of getting things done. The downside of that is that, like me, you might have missed out on a few new features Gmail has gradually added in the past year. So let’s look at what deserves our attention.
We won’t be looking at third-party tools like Sortd, a smart skin to turn Gmail into a Trello-like board. All the features here are built into your Gmail and you don’t need to download or install anything.
Emojis! And More Themes!
The Internet’s most popular new language is emojis, the spiritual successor to emoticons. Emojis can transcend languages, so it’s only natural that any form of text communication should support them. Google recently announced that it now has added a plethora of new emojis to Gmail.
To insert an emoji, just click the “Insert Emoticon” icon in your Compose window and choose what you want. The emojis are still rolling out to all users, so in case you don’t see them yet, be patient, they are coming soon.
Gmail has also added a whole bunch of new Themes, apart from letting you upload your own photos. Plus, you can now also customize the theme using three editing tools: blur, vignette, and text background.
To change themes:
Click the gear in the top right.
Choose a theme from your images, from Google’s “Featured” collection, or upload your own.
Change the blur, add a vignette, and choose a light or dark background for text.
You Can Now “Undo” Sent Emails
For a long time now, Google has kept some features available only as experiments in its innovative Gmail Labs. One of those experiments has finally been rolled out to be a part of Gmail forever: Undo Send.
That’s right! If you accidentally send an email, you now get the option to “Undo Send”. You can select a cancellation period between 5 and 30 seconds, which determines how long that option will be available for you after sending an email. Here’s how to enable it:
Click the gear in the top right.
Scroll down to “Undo Send” in the default General tab and click “Enable”.
For the longest time, Gmail limited the size of the file you can attach in an email to 25MB. While that technical limit still exists, it’s as good as gone because of Google Drive’s integration with Gmail.
Google Drive is the unified online cloud storage service for Gmail and other Google apps, which offers a minimum of 15GB of free storage. If a file you want to send is over 25MB, then you can simply insert it through Google Drive, an option available right in the Compose window, as shown above.
Two years ago, Gmail introduced category tabs for the inbox, which sorted your email by Primary, Social, Promotions, and so on. The Promotions tab was especially good for clearing the clutter without fear of missing out on a good deal.
Now, since Promotions is basically all about great deals, Gmail is testing a more visual-oriented way of looking at those emails. You guessed it, Gmail has adopted a tiled, Pinterest-like look.
To get this feature, you need to sign up for the field trial at g.co/gmailfieldtrial. Opt in, and in a few days, you should see a new “Grid View” option when you’re in the Promotions tab.
The All New Google Contacts
In the top-left corner of your inbox, if you ever click the drop-down arrow next to “Gmail”, you’ll find the option to go into Contacts or Tasks. Google Keep is the new Tasks, so that hasn’t got an update, but the all-new Contacts is fantastic.
Not every new feature is a winner. Sure, Hangouts is a brilliant messenger on Android, but it can be buggy and bloated when loaded in your Gmail. If you’re sick of it crashing your Chrome tab, there is help at hand: you can go back to good old Google Talk.
Hangouts is now the default messenger in Gmail, but you can still use the old view by clicking the little drop-down arrow next to your profile pic in the chat pane, and clicking “Revert to Old Chat”. Follow the instructions and you’ll be back to good old Google Talk before you know it.
Of course, this means you can’t participate in Hangout Calls or group chats, but you can just switch back and forth easily whenever the need arises.
What is the best way to make a video call from your Android device to a Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop computer, or an iPhone, or a Windows Phone? Since the arrival of Skype video calling, more and more companies have attempted to get in on the act, some good, some bad, but all claiming to offer video calling in addition to voice and instant messaging.
Which apps should you install for free cross-platform video calls that won’t cause issues for the person you’re calling? We’ve taken a look at five popular apps to see how good they are, and whether they’re truly cross-platform.
The Bar Is Set: Skype
As the leader in this area, Microsoft’s Skype is the app by which we compare all others. With versions for all three major desktop platforms, and for the main three mobile platforms, Skype is the big player. It’s easy to pickup your mobile and make a video call to a friend on their PC, smartphone or tablet. The Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, and various Smart TVs also have Skype apps.
With the ability to share files as well as talk to people, Skype has become a major collaboration tool over the past few years, its main rival in this space being Google Hangouts. Skype is also a popular choice for podcasters, with call recording tools proving particularly useful (you can even add sound effects to group calls using tools like Voicemeeter). Video calls can also be recorded.
It’s fair to say that Skype performance wasn’t initially great after Microsoft purchased the service and abandoned the peer-to-peer data networking model, but evidently the tech giant has been working hard in this area. Simple to use, yet packed with features, Android users can get to grips with Skype in just a few minutes.
Via the Chrome browser, Google Hangouts can be used on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (you can use the Hangouts add-on if you’re a Firefox user). Mobile users on iOS (iPhone and iPad) can take advantage of its messaging, voice, and video chat service, but if you’re using Windows Phone, Google Hangouts isn’t an option thanks to Google’s almost total lack of support for Microsoft’s mobile platform. This may change with Windows 10 for mobile, but until then, Windows Phone users are excluded.
Android users, of course, enjoy Hangouts as a pre-installed bonus, and naturally, the Chrome OS platform is supported too.
As video chatting goes, the standard is just as high as Skype’s, if not better. Naturally, quality depends on the connection strength and bandwidth of the participants, and if you’re interested in recording the discussion for later (perhaps as a learning or collaborative tool) applications are available to help here. You can also use the Hangouts on Air feature to webcast the call on YouTube.
Google Hangouts also supports the sharing of files for collaboration, which it does by utilizing Google Drive. The lack of support for Windows Phone is the only shortcoming with this video call service, which we reckon is the best all-in-one messaging and calling app for Android.
Sadly, Tango can’t really claim any sort of cross platform reputation as it supports only iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle, Windows Phone (7.5 and later) and Windows. Linux and Mac OS X are of course conspicuous by their absence, especially when Blackberry and Kindle apps are available.
It isn’t all bad news though. First and foremost, cross-platform video calling is available, along with voice and instant messaging. Meanwhile, Tango Out is a limited service for calling landlines and mobile phones around the world, offering 20 free minutes.
One-to-one video calls with Tango have the same strengths and weaknesses as Skype, really, with good quality pictures punctuated with lags and choppy audio. As with all of these apps, the best results come if both users are connected to WiFi rather than mobile Internet.
Attempting to outdo the competition, ooVoo claims that it is “everywhere” and offers apps for Amazon Fire devices, Android phones and tablets, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac OS X, Windows Phone, and Windows desktop.
But ooVoo isn’t perfect: there’s no Linux version, which comes as a bit of a surprise given the increasing popularity of Ubuntu and other distros. Having support for the Amazon Fire Phone isn’t exactly exciting — most people have never even seen that device in real life — so ignoring Linux seems unusual.
Should you have no need to video chat with a friend, relative or colleague while you (or they) are using a desktop computer, IMO messenger and video calling app is useful for chatting with your contacts as long as you’re all using iOS or Android.
This limitation is a bit of a pain, but IMO does offer encrypted chats and calls, photo and video sharing, and stickers (obviously not actual stickers). As you might have guessed, IMO is pitched at a young, vibrant market of smartphone users rather than the more universal approach of the other apps.
Video call quality is as expected, but if you’re going to opt for IMO, look out for unsolicited messages, which are a real problem on the service, certainly as far as Android users are concerned.
What’s Your Favorite?
We think these five apps are the best free cross-platform video calling tools. But what do you think? Have you run into problems with any of them? Perhaps you have a better option? Tell us about it in the comments. Source: www.makeuseof.com
After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Simply titled Apple Music, you can sign up today and listen for three months without paying a cent.
Here’s what you need to know about Apple Music and how to get it.
Setup, Devices & Integration
You can sign up for Apple Music either on an iOS device like the iPhone or iPad or a Mac or Windows computer running iTunes.
On a mobile device, first update your iOS version to 8.4 by visiting Settings > General > Software Update and following the instructions. You’ll probably want to backup your device before you update, just in case something goes wrong. Once you’ve restarted into iOS 8.4, sign up by launching the new Music app.
If you’re using a Mac or Windows computer, you can sign up from within iTunes (you’ll need an Apple ID). On a Mac, update to the latest version of iTunes by visiting the App Store > Updates and on a Windows machine update click Help > Check for Updates in the menu bar. Once you’ve updated, you can head to the For You tab where you’ll be invited to join Apple Music.
Note: If you’ve already signed up on one device, you can click Go To My Music — there’s no need to sign up on each device, just the Apple ID you’re using.
As part of the signup process, Apple will ask you to select some of your favourite artists, first by asking you for genres and then making suggestions. Your selections here will be added to your followed artists and used to make further suggestions for playlists, similar artists or albums on the For You tab.
Arguably the most important thing to do on each new device is enable iCloud Music Library, which will keep your tracks and artists current between devices. You can do this in iOS under Settings > Music, and it should automatically enable when signing up using iTunes.
You can now can begin searching for artists and adding albums to your collection either using the ellipsis (…) icon next to entries or by hitting the plus “+” on an album’s page.
Whether you’re trying to conserve battery life, bandwidth or you absolutely must have certain albums or playlists with you at all times; offline listening has been extensively implemented within Apple Music.
You can mark individual songs and albums available for offline use (on both iTunes and for mobile devices) simply by clicking the familiar “download from iCloud” button. You can also download entire playlists by visiting the playlist and choosing Make Available Offline.
Syncing offline music to iOS devices seems to happen in the background — though launching the Music app is enough to force your iCloud Music Library to check that it’s current.
Can iOS Apps Use Apple Music?
Apple Music appears on your iOS device as if it were your music, so you’d be forgiven for thinking you could make use of this music in any way you see fit. As an example, in an app like djay 2, your Apple Music appears alongside your own files with little to indicate they’re not your files.
Tap on a song and you’ll be told you can’t play it unless you download it. Download it, try again and you’ll be given a DRM error — which means there’s no Apple Music integration with third party apps yet, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen (just like it did with Spotify).
This will disappoint armchair DJs dearly, but it makes relatively little difference to your listening habits. And of course you can still play Apple Music in the background while your workout app talks to you.
Catalogue & Pricing
You can sign up for Apple Music right now, and you won’t be charged for three months as part of the free trial. When your trial is up, you’ll be charged $9.99 for an individual account, or $14.99 if you signed up for a family account. The latter requires Family Sharing be set up, and allows up to five members of the same family to enjoy Apple Music under one subscription (with separate music collections, of course).
How does this look around the world? A monthly individual account will cost you £9.99 in the UK, AUD$11.99 in Australia, and Rs. 120 in India (about US$2). That’s a good picture of how Apple has rolled out Apple Music globally — charging considerably more in “richer” territories without crippling it with excessive entry fees in others.
Note: You can cancel or change your plan type (before being charged) by tapping on the user silhouette icon in the top-left corner of the Music iPhone app, selecting View Apple ID and supplying your password and tapping Manageunder “Subscriptions”. You can do this via iTunes on a computer by clicking your name at the top of the screen, selecting Account Info and signing in. Hit Managenext to subscriptions to make changes.
Apple Music doesn’t stream the entire iTunes library of music, but it does stream a good percentage of it. The official line is “over 30 million tracks” — the same number quoted by market-leader Spotify — though you should expect overall availability to differ depending on your location.
Similarly, Rdio quotes “over 32 million songs” and until recently I was using this service . Initial observations put Apple Music ahead of Rdio, at least for the type of music I listen to. My evidence is purely anecdotal, but I’ve noticed richer back catalogues for emerging and local (in my case Australian) artists from Apple Music.
iTunes is already one of the first-stop destinations for artists looking to sell their music online, which might explain my catalogue observations. Now that Apple offers artists two avenues of monetization and has made a commitment to exclusivity deals (early album previews on Apple Music), the iTunes streaming catalogue is only going to improve further.
Apple Music Connect & Beats 1
Arguably the two least interesting aspects of Apple Music are the Connect social interface, and Beats 1 — a 24/7 radio station curated by Zane Lowe. Both of these features have a separate tab on both the iTunes and iOS interface, and realistically you could make great use of Apple Music without ever visiting them.
Remember all those artists iTunes asked you to follow earlier? Apple Music Connect is where you’re meant to be able to catch up with them all, with Apple hoping artists will embrace the feed and share rare remixes, photos and other happenings. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a no-show at the moment and of the 30-something artists I’m following only one has posted anything (it’s an Instagram photo).
It’s a social network where you have no voice, and nor do you really have any friends. You can’t follow friends or easily share songs. Instead, you can comment on items shared by bands you follow and that’s about it.
If you’d rather disable the service, lose the Connect tab on your iPhone and replace it with a dedicated Playlists tab instead, head to Settings > General > Restrictions. Set a passcode if you need to, then restrict access to Apple Music Connect.
Think of Beats 1 like a playlist, though you’re streaming a “radio” station you can interact with songs as if you’d picked them yourself — add them to your collection, rate them, create playlists. There are transitions between songs, and jingles will remind you that you’re listening to the “radio”.
A new Apple product with issues? But that never happens — oh wait, yes it doesand Apple Music is no different. There’s probably a reason Apple decided to launch their music service roughly three months before they release a new phone and their two major OS updates drop — because it affords them plenty of time to fix bugs and better integrate the service.
Other companies might call this a beta test, but Apple is calling it a free trial. Regardless, Apple Music is most usable on the iPhone right now — in fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s pretty nice. It’s not crashed once on me, my actions (adding music to collection, populating playlists) work without a hitch and the app is smooth and responsive on my iPhone 6.
The iPad app is unfortunately not quite there yet. It crashes often and is sluggish to the point where some artist pages won’t scroll properly. Menus don’t appear where they should and adding albums to your collection becomes somewhat of an exercise in patience, quite unlike the iPhone version.
Which brings us to the Mac version, for which Apple has decided to use iTunes. This results in a rather horrible user experience as the software directs you between the iTunes Store and Apple Music at random intervals. You can’t do things like easily browse an artist in Apple Music from your Collection, you’ve got to search for them (but make sure you’re searching the right store).
Clicking on an ellipsis (…) to add an an album from the search results page only loads an option to “Share” the album roughly half of the time — so you have to click the album, wait for it to load, then add it to your collection and go back to your search results to continue browsing.
Sure, it works, but it’s not music to your ears — it’s a shrill fire alarm at 5 a.m. screaming “iTunes must die!” on repeat.
The Future of Apple Music
Apple Music has gotten off to a bright start — the catalogue is impressive, it’s feature-rich, and international pricing and availability are spot-on. If you’re signing up for a three-month trial today, you probably won’t be disappointed. The iPad version is problematic, but it’s an easy fix that’s on the way.
What’s most disappointing is the Mac (and presumably Windows?) version, which feels more like a dirty iTunes hack than polished software. A lightweight, dedicated app would be the ideal fix to this situation, but that’s unlikely considering Apple’s obsession with iTunes.
Have you signed up for the Apple Music three-month trial? What do you think so far? Source: www.makeuseof.com