Thursday, December 18, 2014
Chromebooks are fantastic machines. As the quality of the apps in the Chrome Web Store improves they’re becoming increasingly capable of doing everything that your primary PC or Mac can do, but for a fraction of the cost. Their security, ease of use, and portability is rapidly making them a popular choice for schools, businesses, and university students – all of whom are taking note of their advantages.
In the previous piece in this series we looked at how, contrary to some people’s opinions, Chromebooks can play Google Play movies and television shows when offline. The latest installment in our mini-series looks at the wide choice of high quality photo editors that are available to all Chrome users.
Sumo Paint is one of the most full-featured painting and image editing applications available to Chromebook users. It boasts an impressive repertoire of 570,000 registered members and over 2,000,000 images, meaning you’ll benefit from an exciting community which aims to “create, share, remix, explore, comment, and rate the artwork of its members“.
Sumo Paint is probably as close to Photoshop as you’ll be able to get on your Chromebook. It uses a menu bar that is similar to Photoshop’s, and offers typical editing features such as blur, smudge, gradient fill, line tools, clone and custom shapes. It comes with all the layering tools you need to create professional images, and has an array of cool filters.
If you’ve always found Photoshop a bit confusing, Sumo Paint once again proves to be a good choice. It offers an extensive community-curated help file, which provides in-depth information on what the tools are and how they work, and even includes simple graphics to illustrate points.
The only drawback? You’ll need to upgrade to the pro version to be able to work offline.
Where Sumo Paint fails, Pixlr Touch Up succeeds – namely, it works offline.
This isn’t the full-featured, Photoshop-esque program that Sumo Paint is, but if you want to do some basic photo editing, it’s much better than the minimalist default editor that comes preinstalled on Chromebooks.
It underwent a major overhaul in early 2014, adding over 100 new features and effects, including much-requested tools such as sharpen and blur. These were added to existing editing tools such as resizing, adding effects, enhancing colour, adjusting brightness and contrast, and altering focus – thus making one of the most powerful offline editors for Chromebooks.
While Pixlr Touch Up and Sumo Paint are both for more seriously-minded people, PicMonkey takes a more light-hearted approach to photo editing.
There are three main functions to the program – edit, design, and collage. Editing will let you crop, resize, add text, and alter colours, as well as things like removing red-eye and whitening teeth. Design lets you start with a blank canvas and create a picture from scratch, while collage gives you the ability to stitch several photos together to make a single larger photo.
The collage feature is the most fun, and is extremely easy to use. There are lots of pre-made templates, meaning you don’t have to worry about spacing, and it works by using a simple drag-and-drop operation.
Its biggest let-down is its text options. It has no option for a stroke or any kind of gradient. It means if you want to create a drop shadow you’ll have to create a duplicate layer and offset it – it’s nowhere near as polished as Photoshop.
Pixlr Editor is Sumo Paint’s biggest rival and is the only other app that comes close to replicating a true Photoshop experience on a Chromebook. Like Sumo Paint, it cannot be used offline, but its vast range of features mean either this or its rival should constitute a ‘must-have’ in your app tray.
All the basic functions for control of colour, tonality, sharpening and resizing are provided, plus a set of useful filters. Like Photoshop, you can also merge layers, add masks or tweak opacity and amount. Although photos are edited using an online program, finished products can be saved locally for easy distribution.
Its biggest criticism has always been its treatment of RAW files – they must first be opened in a stand-alone converter and the converted file then imported into Pixlr. Other supported formats include JPEG, GIF, PSD, PNG and BMP.
As of summer 2014 Pixlr has had a desktop version available for Windows and Mac – so you can use the same program across all your machines to simplify your experience.
Polarr Photo Editor is probably the most complete offline photo editor available, possessing more options than the aforementioned Pixlr Touch Up.
Like the other professional-looking programs listed here, the app is feature-rich. It includes adjustments for colour temperature, exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, clarity, and HSL channels, as well as the possibility to add watermarks and signatures.
The developers have also promised that RAW support will be available in the next version which gives a big advantage over Pixlr, especially when considered alongside its ability to read JPEG files up to 30 megapixels.
What Do You Use?
Which photo editors do you use on your Chromebook? Are you an advocate of one of our selections, or do they fail to meet your needs?
What about other things that you can do on a Chromebook? Do you always find yourself correcting people who mistakenly believe a certain task is not possible to undertake on Google’s devices?
Let us know in the comments below!
Cable TV, data plans, landlines – they’re all nice from time to time, but do you know how much they’re costing you? Because it’s likely more than you think.
Lots of companies, in their marketing, try to make a monthly expense sound manageable by dividing the total into days. For example: instead of a phone plan costing you $60 a month, they’ll advertise it as “only $2 a day” or (my personal least-favourite) “less than the price of a cup of coffee”.
You can see why this works: smaller numbers sound manageable.
You can turn this approach on its head: every time you see a potential monthly expense, multiply it by 12. For example: a $100 monthly phone bill costs you $1200 a year. Compare that to your annual income and you’ll have a much better idea of how much that plan is costing you.
Thinking this way, it’s easy to see how keeping monthly expenses down can help you balance your budget. And if you’re tech-savvy, there are a lot of ways you can do this. Figuring out how can even be fun, because if there’s one thing geeks love its working around arbitrary restrictions and making something work. That’s half the fun of video games, and it can be fun in this case too.
Let’s go over a few ways to save money every month. None of these ideas are particularly original – you’ve probably heard most of them around the web. But add them up and you’ll save a lot.
Cut Cable; Save $1000 Every Year
The average American cable bill is $86 a month, or $1032 a year, according to Consumer Reports. That cost just keeps rising: some estimates say it will be well over $100 in the next couple of years.
So if you can live without cable, you can save yourself a lot of money. And thanks to online streaming, living without cable is easier than it’s ever been. For many services like Netflix have already replaced most TV watching – switch over completely and you’re done.
Sure: you might not be able to watch the latest episodes of your favourite shows right now. But you’ll get to eventually, and you’ll have no shortage of things to watch in the meantime. And there’s a lot of free entertainment to be found online, from YouTube to Hulu, to keep you entertained – set up an XBMC media center and you can access it all from a nice interface.
“But what about sports,” you ask? Well, depending on what league you follow there are online-only services you can use for streaming – I use NHL Gamecenter to watch hockey games. But there are other options. If you’re paying $100 a month for cable just to watch one football game a week, for example, consider going to a sports bar every week instead. A pitcher of beer might cost you $10, but that’s a lot less than $100 a month – and you get beer.
And it’s not like all TV costs money. You can use an antenna to get free over-the-air TV. In the US this includes the “big four” stations – ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox – alongside PBS, the CW and a number of other local stations. You might be surprised how many of your favourite shows are available without cable.
Cutting the cord isn’t for everyone, but there are a lot of options. Check out our cord cutting guide to learn more about the gadgets and software you can use to entertain yourself without a cable bill.
Ditch Your Mobile Data Plan, Save $1000 Every Year.
The average American mobile bill is over $100 a month, or $1200 a year. That’s a lot of money – and you might not even need it.
My colleague Christian recently pointed out that you probably don’t need a mobile data plan. It sounds crazy, but think about it: how often are you actually away from WiFi? And how much of that time are you spending online?
At this point most restaurants, hotels, libraries and even grocery stores offer free WiFi. So even without a data plan, your phone can likely access the Internet wherever you are most of the day.
Being offline for a bit might suck, but there’s plenty you can do on your phone in the meantime. Many games work offline, and you can load up your device with podcasts and ebooks if you really need an information fix. Think to yourself: do you need to be online constantly more than you need an extra $1000 a year?
If you’d rather not ditch your phone completely, you’ve got options. Republic Wireless, for example, provides a $10/month plan with unlimited talk and text. Combine this with WiFi at home and you’ll be pretty much covered, but if you find yourself needing data you can switch a month to an upgraded plan: $25/month for unlimited 3G. You can switch twice a month, so you’ll only pay for data when you actually need it.
Look around and you’ll find lots of options, so think outside the contract. It could save you $1000, every year.
Replace Your Overpriced Home Phone Line, Save $200 A Year (Or More!)
Fewer people still pay for landlines, and this makes sense: one phone bill is enough. But there are reasons to still have a landline: long distance calls tend to be cheaper, and you can give someone a phone number to reach you at that’s not your cell.
But there’s a downside: a landline often costs $20 a month, alongside possible long distance charges. If you’re paying for this, consider using VoIP instead. I personally like Skype phones, because for $30 you get unlimited long distance in the USA and Canada. You can find similarly priced plans for calling to Europe and Asia, and it doesn’t matter where on earth you live – the prices are the same. If you regularly need to call people abroad, there’s a lot of potential savings here – especially if you’re currently paying for long distance by the minute.
I showed you how to use Skype as your main home phone line. It has gotten a lot easier since then, with a variety of apps now allowing you to make and receive phone calls on any Android or iOS device.
How Do You Shave Monthly Expenses?These are just three tips I thought of, but I’m sure there’s a lot more. What monthly expenses can you make disappear with just a little bit of tech knowledge? And what are you going to do with the money you saved? Let’s talk it all through in the comments below. Source: www.makeuseof.com
A microwave is great for certain kinds of foods. For example, when you want to make some frozen pizza rolls, a microwave will do the job very well.
But what if you want to make scrambled eggs? A microwave couldn’t possibly do that. You can’t use a microwave to make garlic easy to peel. right? Wrong, your microwave can do all that and more!
Need more cooking tips? Check out these YouTube channels where chefs share their secrets!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
What if I told you that it was possible to travel to see the locations featured in your favorite movies and shows? What if you could go see the locations frequented by Walter White in Breaking Bad? What if you could see the fantastical locations of Middle Earth (aka New Zealand).
Guess what? You can! All you have to is take a Fancation, and you can see many of the iconic places feature in The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Breaking Bad, and Dr. Who. After all, not everything is just filmed in a studio!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
The Business Deal
A Chinese guy goes into a Jewish-owned establishment to buy black bras, size 38. The Jewish store keeper, known for his skills as a businessman, says that black bras are rare and that he is finding it very difficult to buy them from his suppliers. Therefore he has to charge $50.00 for them.
The Chinese guy buys 25 pairs.
He returns a few days later and this time orders fifty.
The Jewish owner tells him that they have become even harder to get and charges him $60.00 each.
The Chinese guy returns a month later and buys the store's remaining stock of 50, and this time for $75.00 each.
The Jewish owner is somewhat puzzled by the large demand for black size 38 bras and asks the Chinese guy, "...please tell me - What do you do with all these black bras?"
The Chinese guy answers: "I cut them in half and sell them as skull caps to you Jews for $200.00 each."
...and this is why the Chinese own us!
Business is Business!