Tag Archives: Android

How to Set Up Bluetooth in an Older Car (or a Newer, Fussier Car)

Maybe you bought a brand-new phone; maybe your phone just went through a major OS update. Either way, the result is the same: you can’t connect it via Bluetooth to your older car anymore, which means you’ve lost the ability to rock out, enrich yourself with podcasts, or make hands-free calls.

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What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

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What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Just recently, Google and Microsoft both added neural network learning to their translation apps. Google said it’s using machine learning to suggest playlists. Todoist says it’s using AI to suggest when you should finish a task. Any.do claims its AI-powered bot can do some tasks for you. All that’s just from last week. Some of it is marketing fluff to make new features sound impressive, but sometimes the changes are legitimately useful. “Artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” and “neural networks” all describe ways for computers to do more advanced tasks and learn from their environment. While you may hear them used interchangeably by app developers, they can be very different in practice.

Neural Networks Analyze Complex Data By Simulating the Human Brain

Artificial neural networks (ANNs or simply “neural networks” for short) refer to a specific type of learning model that emulates the way synapses work in your brain. Traditional computing uses a series of logic statements to perform a task. Neural networks, on the other hand, use a network of nodes (which act like neurons) and edges (which act like synapses) to process data. Inputs are then run through the system and a series of outputs are generated.

That output is then compared to known data. For example, say you want to train a computer to recognize a picture of a dog. You’d run millions of pictures of a dog through the network to see what images it decided looked like dogs. A human would then confirm which images are actually dogs. The system then favors the pathways through the neural network that led to the correct answer. Over time and millions of iterations, the network will eventually improve the accuracy of its results.

To see how this works in action, you can try out Google’s Quick, Draw! experiment here. In this case, Google is training a network to recognize doodles. It compares the doodle you draw to examples drawn by other people. The network is told what the doodles are and then trained to recognize future doodles based on what the past ones look like. Even if your drawing skills suck (like mine do), the network is pretty good at recognizing basic shapes like submarines, house plants, and ducks.

Neural networks aren’t the right solution for everything, but they excel at dealing with complex data. Google and Microsoft using neural networks to power their translation apps is legitimately exciting because translating languages is hard. We’ve all seen broken translations, but neural network learning could let the system learn from correct translations to get better over time. We’ve seen a similar thing happen with voice transcription. After introducing neural network learning to Google Voice, transcription errors were reduced by 49%. You may not notice it right away and it won’t be perfect, but this type of learning genuinely makes complex data analysis better which can lead to more natural features in your apps.

Machine Learning Teaches Computers to Improve With Practice

Machine learning is a broad term that encompasses anything where you teach a machine to improve at a task on its own. More specifically, it refers to any system where a machine’s performance at completing a task gets better solely through more experience performing that task. Neural networks are an example of machine learning, but they are not the only way a machine can learn.

For example, one alternative method of machine learning is called reinforcement learning. In this method, a computer performs a task and then it’s graded on the result. The video above from Android Authority uses a chess game as an example. A computer plays a complete game of chess and then it either wins or loses. If it wins, then it assigns a winning value to the series of moves it used during that game. After playing millions of games, the system can determine which moves are most likely to win based on the results of those games.

While neural networks are good for things like pattern recognition in images, other types of machine learning may be more useful for different tasks like determining what kind of music you like. To wit, Google says its music app will find you the music you want when you want it. It does this by selecting playlists for you based on your past behavior. If you ignore its suggestions, that would (presumably) be labeled as a failure. However, if you choose one of the suggestions, the process it used to give that suggestion is labeled as a success, so it reinforces the process that led to that suggestion.

In cases like this, you might not get the full benefit of machine learning if you don’t use the feature a lot. The first time you open Google’s music app, your recommendations will probably be pretty scattershot. The more you use it, the better the suggestions get. In theory, anyway. Machine learning isn’t a silver bullet, so you could still get junk recommendations. However, you’ll definitely get junk recommendations if you only open the music app once every six months. Without regular use to help it learn, machine learning suggestions aren’t much better than regular “smart” suggestions. As a buzzword, “machine learning” is vaguer than neural networks, but it still implies that the software you’re using will use your feedback to improve its performance.

Artificial Intelligence Just Means Anything That’s “Smart”

Just like neural networks are a form of machine learning, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. However, the category of what else counts as “artificial intelligence” is so poorly defined that it’s almost meaningless. While it conjures the mental image of futuristic sci-fi, in reality, we’ve already reached milestones that were previously considered the realm of future AI. For example, optical character recognition was once considered too complex for a machine, but now an app on your phone can scan documents and turn them into text. Describing such a now-basic task as AI would make it sound more impressive than it is.

The reason that basic phone tasks can be considered AI is because there are actually two very different categories of artificial intelligence. Weak or narrow AI describes any system that’s designed for a narrow task or set of tasks. For example, Google Assistant and Siri—while powerful—are designed to do a very narrow set of tasks. Namely, take specifics series of voice commands and return answers or launch apps. Research into artificial intelligence powers those features, but it’s still considered “weak.”

In contrast, strong AI—otherwise known as artificial general intelligence or “full aI”—is a system that can perform any task that a human can. It also doesn’t exist. If you were hoping that your to-do list app would be powered by a cute robot voiced by Alan Tudyk, that’s a long way off. Since virtually any AI you’d actually use is considered weak AI, the phrase “artificial intelligence” in an app description really just means “it’s a smart app.” You might get some cool suggestions, but don’t expect it to rival the intelligence of a human.

While the semantics may be muddy, the practical research in AI fields is so useful you’ve probably already incorporated it into your daily life. Every time your phone automatically remembers where you parked, recognizes faces in your photos, get search suggestions, or automatically groups all your vacation pictures together, you’re benefitting either directly or indirectly from AI research. To a certain extent, “artificial intelligence” really just means apps getting smarter, which is what you’d expect anyway. However, machine learning and neural networks are uniquely suited to improving certain kinds of tasks. If an app just says it’s using “AI” it’s less meaningful than any type of machine learning.

It’s also worth pointing out that neural networks and machine learning are not all created equal. Saying that an app uses machine learning to do something better is a bit like saying a camera is better because it’s “digital.” Yes, digital cameras can do some things that film cameras can’t, but that doesn’t mean that every digital photograph is better than every film photograph. It’s all in how you use it. Some companies will be able to develop powerful neural networks that do really complicated things that make your life better. Others will slap a machine learning label on a feature that already offered “smart” suggestions and you’ll ignore it just the same.

From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, machine learning and neural networks are very exciting. However, if you’re reading an app description that uses these phrases, you can just read it as “This feature is slightly smarter, probably” and continue doing what you’ve always done: judging apps by how useful they are to you.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Images: Darren Orf/Gizmodo

In 2014, OnePlus arrived out of nowhere with a powerful idea: What if a phone could look good, be powerful, and not cost a crapload? The OnePlus One was a mic drop and the OnePlus 2 a successful sophomore follow-up, but the new 3 silences the haters—the OnePlus 3 is a “Flagship Killer” and at $400, with no more dumb invite system, it’s not just the best OnePlus phone ever, but one of the best cheap phones too.

No part of this phone sees a bigger evolutionary leap than its external design. Although admirable for sub-$400 phones, OnePlus never quite rivaled the design chops of its more expensive competition. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told Gizmodo that the original OnePlus used its famous sandstone finish because going all metal was just too expensive. For the 3, OnePlus ups the price a little to go full Terminator.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus One, OnePlus 2, and the OnePlus 3. This version is called “graphite,” and a “soft gold” version will be available later.

Machined from a block of anodized aluminum and borrowing heavily from design quirks popularized by competitors, the OnePlus 3 finally looks like the “premium” phone it’s always wanted to be. The 3’s camera placement and antenna design look incredibly HTC-inspired while the 5.5-inch AMOLED 1080p display bubbles up from the bezels much like the iPhone.

But it’s not just a soulless copycat.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Like the OnePlus 2, the 3 runs OnePlus’ own Android mod, called Oxygen OS. For smartphone nerds out there, that means the OnePlus has much more customization options than standard Android—dark theme, icon sizes, more multitasking options. Oxygen OS is basically Android Marshmallow, the current release of Android, but with some small tweaks to the user interface. To show you what I mean, here’s Android running on Nexus 5X and Oxygen OS running the OnePlus 3. Bonus points if you can guess which is which:

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Answer: Android left, Oxygen OS right

The 3 has a similar spec checklist like the rest of the very best recent phones. USB Type-C? Check. Latest Snapdragon processor? Yessir. Fingerprint sensor, high megapixel camera, and fast charging? Yep, yep, and youbetcha. Really the only thing you could try to put in the minus column is a 1080p AMOLED display instead of a pixel dense 2K screen found on most other phones (minus the iPhone). But unless you’re going to be strapping VR to your face, you’ll likely be just as happy with the OnePlus 3.

But a major departure is the amount of RAM packed into the OnePlus 3—6 GB. Six! That’s as much as a laptop—a shitty one—but still! This really allows Oxygen OS to shine. Like Apple and iOS, OnePlus has optimized its in-house software to work especially well on the OnePlus 3, so it can take advantage of all that RAM in ways other Android competitors cannot.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
PDF Test, OnePlus 3 (right) versus iPhone 6s Plus (left)

In side-by-side testing, the OnePlus 3 easily keeps up with the iPhone 6s Plus. We opened the same giant PDF on both phones, and the OnePlus 3 just barely beat the iPhone. It even feels marginally faster when you consider Apple’s painfully slow animations.

When we tried to open the camera with over a dozen other apps running in the background the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge did so in a respectable 2.6 seconds. But the OnePlus 3 smoked it—opening in under one second.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Once the camera pops open, the OnePlus 3 clearly makes some impressive strides in terms of software and hardware. For one, you can use the 16 megapixel front camera to shoot in RAW—incredibly useful for saving badly exposed photos in post—and the updated camera app has manual control, so you can tinker with all the advanced camera settings that you want.

Sadly the ability to tinker can’t save optics that are just average. Here’s a comparison with the OnePlus 3 and three of its competitors—the Galaxy S7, LG G5, and the iPhone 6s Plus.

Although the photo captures the overall image even when shrouded in poor lighting, the details in Steve Jobs’ face (not Kutcher) are not as clear when compared to the Galaxy S7 and the 6s Plus. We’re not talking catastrophic differences, but possibly enough to deter someone looking for the very best mobile camera.

But it isn’t the slightly less-than-excellent camera that’s the OnePlus 3′s big flaw. It’s battery life. On at least two occasions during my week with the 3, it died late into the evening. At one point, it left me locked outside of my apartment unable to reach my roommates. I had to walk to a friend’s house, pound on the door, and beg him to let me sleep on his couch. It’s these moments where a phone that can last into the next morning (the Samsung S7′s battery life really is incredible) is immeasurably more useful than one that can’t.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus 3 comes with USB Type-C and quick charging with Dash Charge.

The 3 does come with its own blend of fast charging, called Dash Charge, which the company says offers a “day’s power in half an hour.” With the phone powered off and drained to zero, I was able to get 80 percent charge in 40 minutes on the 3′s 3000mAh battery. Good, but not astounding. OnePlus thinks people will just top off their phones periodically throughout the day, but that doesn’t fit my routine.

Aside from that, it’s hard not to look at the OnePlus 3 and marvel at how this unknown Chinese company has so quickly and confidently made a flagship phone for so cheap. This is—in every sense of the phrase—a top-of-the-line device. Where previous OnePlus phones were marred with compromises, the OnePlus 3 makes almost none. For the price, the OnePlus 3 is the absolute best phone you can buy.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

README

  • Thanks to in-house hardware and software—not to mention 6GB of RAM—this phone flies with ludicrous speed.
  • The camera isn’t the best available—but it has RAW support so you can shout “FIX IT IN POST” just like a real photographer.
  • No expandable storage, but 64GB means you shouldn’t be worried.
  • Although it looks like stock Android, it definitely isn’t, which means you’ll be waiting for Android N for months, like the rest of the non-Nexus world.
  • Battery life is the real concern. Charge your phone so you don’t have to sleep on a friend’s couch.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Wouldn’t it be cool if your phone knew to enter airplane mode when you go to the theater, or text your spouse when you leave work? IFTTT and Tasker can automate countless tasks like these to turn your phone into an attentive personal assistant. Today, we’re putting them both in the ring to see which one’s better at simplifying your life.

The Contenders

One of Android’s greatest benefits is how much you can customize it to your liking. That doesn’t just mean you can change your font or use a different app launcher. That stuff is child’s play. Automation apps can do everything from switching off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when your battery gets low to turning your phone into a voice-controlled remote for your living room. Today, we’re looking at two of the most powerful automation tool on Android:

  • IFTTT: IFTTT is a web service that connects the other services you use every day like Evernote, Gmail, or Dropbox with simple instructions called “recipes.” A recipe consists of a trigger, like receiving an attachment in Gmail, and an action, like saving that attachment to Dropbox. Each service has its own channel of triggers and actions. The IF app for Android adds several channels specific to your phone that let you trigger actions based on where you are, when you receive a phone call, or your phone’s battery level. You can then perform actions like changing your system’s settings, sending texts, or even setting a new wallpaper. For example, you can tell IFTTT to automatically update your wallpaper with NASA’s newest image of the day. IFTTT isn’t limited to Android, which means it’s easy to connect your phone to the rest of your digital life.
  • Tasker: Tasker is a rules-based automation app for Android. With it, you can create “profiles” based on things like what application is running, what day it is, or where you are. Tasker then watches your phone to see when those conditions are met. Once they are, it can triggers “tasks” to do things like send texts, change settings on your phone, or play music. For example, you can tell Tasker to turn on airplane mode whenever you’re at the GPS location of your favorite movie theater. Third-party plugins like AutoVoice allow you to extend what you can do with Tasker even more.

The examples we’ve given just scratch the surface of what these two services can do. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out our readers’ favorite Tasker actions here. IFTTT also has a huge library of recipes you can browse if you’re not sure how to make your own. You can build on the work that many intrepid tweakers have already done to make your phone do some pretty amazing things.

http://lifehacker.com/5599116/how-to…

IFTTT Is Easier to Use But Limiting, While Tasker Is Powerful With a Steep Learning Curve

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

If we were to compare Tasker and IFTTT on ease of use alone, IFTTT would win with no contest. IFTTT’s recipes are built around a simple, familiar programming phrase: if this then that. If your phone leaves the house, turn off Wi-Fi. If Google Calendar says you’re in a meeting, mute your phone. This simplicity, combined with a gorgeous and accessible app design, makes it easy for just about anyone to automate simple tasks.

On top of this, IFTTT already has a huge library of published recipes from existing users. You can browse the library here, select a recipe you like, and click Add. Boom, you’re done. The most you have to do is install the IF app for Android and connect your various services to IFTTT. It couldn’t be simpler, even for beginners.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Tasker is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tasker’s interface is far more complex and the app comes with only the most basic tutorials. We have our own guide here that can help you get started. You’ll also need Tasker’s official wiki to understand many of the features in the app. There are also Tasker-focused user communities can provide templates for how to automate certain actions, and you’ve shared some of your favorite actions too,but if you can’t find an existing action for the thing you want to accomplish, you’re on your own. Unfortunately, being on your own involves a lot of trial and error, research, and troubleshooting. While you don’t necessarily need to be a coder to use Tasker, it will help to at least understand the logic of how automating simple tasks works. Which is more than IFTTT asks of its users.

Once you get over Tasker’s learning curve, though, your reward for climbing that hill is totally worth it. With Tasker, you can do nearly anything with your phone. For example, this person set up voice commands with Tasker to control his lights, TV, and home theater PC. Another built this makeshift one-handed mode for giant phones. You can use Tasker and a few plugins to make custom voice commands for anything Tasker can do. Most of these aren’t the kind of thing you could set up in five minutes, but Tasker is only limited by how much time you’re willing to put into it.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker
Your average user probably has no idea what half of these Tasker options mean.

IFTTT, on the other hand, doesn’t give you nearly as much flexibility. You only have a small set of Android actions and triggers to choose from. For example, you can change your phone’s wallpaper, play music on your phone or from your favorite apps, and modify other system settings like volume, Wi-Fi, and more. Unfortunately, you can’t do more complicated things that Tasker is capable of, like create your own voice commands. In fact, you can’t even create IFTTT recipes with multiple triggers or actions. For example, say you wanted to create an action to find your lost phone by texting it, even if it’s muted. You can create one recipe to unmute your phone, and you can create a separate recipe to play a notification sound, but you can’t trigger both actions in the same recipe. This can get complicated if you want to perform two actions from the same trigger, since you can’t determine what order recipes are executed in.

Fortunately, you don’t have to use just one or the other (and we’ll come back to that), but for those who like tweaking their setup, Tasker is going to offer a lot more direct control. IFTTT is perfect for beginners or users who only want to do simple tasks.

http://lifehacker.com/5930652/unleas…

Tasker Plugins Give It New Powers, While IFTTT Can Connect to All Your Favorite Services

Tasker and IFTTT are both highly extensible, but in very different ways. Tasker supports third-party plugins, which add new functionality, while IFTTT connects to third-party online services to extend its features. Let’s start with Tasker. Here are a few of our favorite, most useful Tasker plugins:

  • AutoVoice: This plugin allows you to create custom voice commands to trigger Tasker actions. For example, in the home automation setup we mentioned earlier, one Tasker user used AutoVoice to create a voice command for “I’m home” that turns on all the lights in his house. It even integrates with Google Now so you can seamlessly use your own commands the same way you use Ok, Google.
  • AutoRemote: This plugin, when paired with AutoVoice, allows you to run your custom voice commands with Cortana in Windows 10. So, you could run that “I’m home” command from the last example while sitting at your desk, instead of having to pull out your phone. AutoRemote will simply forward the command to your handset, and Tasker will take it from there.
  • AutoNotification: With this plugin, you can create persistent notifications on your phone. Here, you can add buttons to manually trigger Tasker actions. For example, you could create an action that disables GPS and Bluetooth and enables Wi-Fi. When you get home, just tap this button so your phone saves battery on the services it might not need.

Third-party plugins are responsible for helping Tasker learn a lot of new skills since it first came out. While you can do some cool things with the basic Tasker app, it’s hard to deny that adding voice commands or Cortana support is pretty awesome. You can find more plugins on the developer’s web site here.

For its part, IFTTT doesn’t have plugins, but it connects to other supported online services. This means that you can change your phone’s wallpaper by posting to Instagram, or turn on your home’s smart lights when you get home. You can check out IFTTT’s massive list of channels here. We couldn’t possibly highlight everything you could do with these, but there are a few that are particularly useful:

  • Amazon Alexa Channel: If you have an Amazon Echo, this channel triggers actions on your Android device remotely using Alexa. You can use this to unmute and find your phone if you lost it (though as we stated earlier, you might need two separate recipes to do this). You could also use create a command to turn your phone’s GPS on, so you can ask Alexa to do it before you leave for work instead of fiddling with your settings in the driveway.
  • Connected Home: IFTTT has an impressive collection of connected home channels. If you have WeMo, D-Link, Harmony, or Nest smart home gadgets, you can connect them to IFTTT easily, and with the Android channels, you can use your phone to turn your lights on when you get home or change the thermostat when you leave.
  • Pushbullet: Pushbullet is an awesome service that allows you to “push” messages and files from one device to another. You can already use it to bridge the gap between your phone, laptop, and tablet. With the IFTTT Pushbullet channel, you can do even more, like get notifications on your computer if you miss a phone call or if your phone’s battery gets low.

These are just a few examples, but you can see how channels that aren’t directly related to Android can still be useful.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-use-pus…

Tasker and IFTTT Are Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter: Good Alone, but Better Together

So, after all of that, which one is better? Well, neither one! Tasker is perfect for making creative, complex actions, and IFTTT serves as a simple glue between your phone and various other services. When you use each one for what they’re best at, you can do some pretty amazing things.

For example, you can use Tasker to create a custom voice command that will send a text message to IFTTT, which will then turn on your WeMo light switch. You can use Tasker alone to do this, but it’s more complicated. By using both services together, you can do even more awesome things with your phone, with even less effort.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Wouldn’t it be cool if your phone knew to enter airplane mode when you go to the theater, or text your spouse when you leave work? IFTTT and Tasker can automate countless tasks like these to turn your phone into an attentive personal assistant. Today, we’re putting them both in the ring to see which one’s better at simplifying your life.

The Contenders

One of Android’s greatest benefits is how much you can customize it to your liking. That doesn’t just mean you can change your font or use a different app launcher. That stuff is child’s play. Automation apps can do everything from switching off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when your battery gets low to turning your phone into a voice-controlled remote for your living room. Today, we’re looking at two of the most powerful automation tool on Android:

  • IFTTT: IFTTT is a web service that connects the other services you use every day like Evernote, Gmail, or Dropbox with simple instructions called “recipes.” A recipe consists of a trigger, like receiving an attachment in Gmail, and an action, like saving that attachment to Dropbox. Each service has its own channel of triggers and actions. The IF app for Android adds several channels specific to your phone that let you trigger actions based on where you are, when you receive a phone call, or your phone’s battery level. You can then perform actions like changing your system’s settings, sending texts, or even setting a new wallpaper. For example, you can tell IFTTT to automatically update your wallpaper with NASA’s newest image of the day. IFTTT isn’t limited to Android, which means it’s easy to connect your phone to the rest of your digital life.
  • Tasker: Tasker is a rules-based automation app for Android. With it, you can create “profiles” based on things like what application is running, what day it is, or where you are. Tasker then watches your phone to see when those conditions are met. Once they are, it can triggers “tasks” to do things like send texts, change settings on your phone, or play music. For example, you can tell Tasker to turn on airplane mode whenever you’re at the GPS location of your favorite movie theater. Third-party plugins like AutoVoice allow you to extend what you can do with Tasker even more.

The examples we’ve given just scratch the surface of what these two services can do. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out our readers’ favorite Tasker actions here. IFTTT also has a huge library of recipes you can browse if you’re not sure how to make your own. You can build on the work that many intrepid tweakers have already done to make your phone do some pretty amazing things.

http://lifehacker.com/5599116/how-to…

IFTTT Is Easier to Use But Limiting, While Tasker Is Powerful With a Steep Learning Curve

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

If we were to compare Tasker and IFTTT on ease of use alone, IFTTT would win with no contest. IFTTT’s recipes are built around a simple, familiar programming phrase: if this then that. If your phone leaves the house, turn off Wi-Fi. If Google Calendar says you’re in a meeting, mute your phone. This simplicity, combined with a gorgeous and accessible app design, makes it easy for just about anyone to automate simple tasks.

On top of this, IFTTT already has a huge library of published recipes from existing users. You can browse the library here, select a recipe you like, and click Add. Boom, you’re done. The most you have to do is install the IF app for Android and connect your various services to IFTTT. It couldn’t be simpler, even for beginners.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Tasker is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tasker’s interface is far more complex and the app comes with only the most basic tutorials. We have our own guide here that can help you get started. You’ll also need Tasker’s official wiki to understand many of the features in the app. There are also Tasker-focused user communities can provide templates for how to automate certain actions, and you’ve shared some of your favorite actions too,but if you can’t find an existing action for the thing you want to accomplish, you’re on your own. Unfortunately, being on your own involves a lot of trial and error, research, and troubleshooting. While you don’t necessarily need to be a coder to use Tasker, it will help to at least understand the logic of how automating simple tasks works. Which is more than IFTTT asks of its users.

Once you get over Tasker’s learning curve, though, your reward for climbing that hill is totally worth it. With Tasker, you can do nearly anything with your phone. For example, this person set up voice commands with Tasker to control his lights, TV, and home theater PC. Another built this makeshift one-handed mode for giant phones. You can use Tasker and a few plugins to make custom voice commands for anything Tasker can do. Most of these aren’t the kind of thing you could set up in five minutes, but Tasker is only limited by how much time you’re willing to put into it.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker
Your average user probably has no idea what half of these Tasker options mean.

IFTTT, on the other hand, doesn’t give you nearly as much flexibility. You only have a small set of Android actions and triggers to choose from. For example, you can change your phone’s wallpaper, play music on your phone or from your favorite apps, and modify other system settings like volume, Wi-Fi, and more. Unfortunately, you can’t do more complicated things that Tasker is capable of, like create your own voice commands. In fact, you can’t even create IFTTT recipes with multiple triggers or actions. For example, say you wanted to create an action to find your lost phone by texting it, even if it’s muted. You can create one recipe to unmute your phone, and you can create a separate recipe to play a notification sound, but you can’t trigger both actions in the same recipe. This can get complicated if you want to perform two actions from the same trigger, since you can’t determine what order recipes are executed in.

Fortunately, you don’t have to use just one or the other (and we’ll come back to that), but for those who like tweaking their setup, Tasker is going to offer a lot more direct control. IFTTT is perfect for beginners or users who only want to do simple tasks.

http://lifehacker.com/5930652/unleas…

Tasker Plugins Give It New Powers, While IFTTT Can Connect to All Your Favorite Services

Tasker and IFTTT are both highly extensible, but in very different ways. Tasker supports third-party plugins, which add new functionality, while IFTTT connects to third-party online services to extend its features. Let’s start with Tasker. Here are a few of our favorite, most useful Tasker plugins:

  • AutoVoice: This plugin allows you to create custom voice commands to trigger Tasker actions. For example, in the home automation setup we mentioned earlier, one Tasker user used AutoVoice to create a voice command for “I’m home” that turns on all the lights in his house. It even integrates with Google Now so you can seamlessly use your own commands the same way you use Ok, Google.
  • AutoRemote: This plugin, when paired with AutoVoice, allows you to run your custom voice commands with Cortana in Windows 10. So, you could run that “I’m home” command from the last example while sitting at your desk, instead of having to pull out your phone. AutoRemote will simply forward the command to your handset, and Tasker will take it from there.
  • AutoNotification: With this plugin, you can create persistent notifications on your phone. Here, you can add buttons to manually trigger Tasker actions. For example, you could create an action that disables GPS and Bluetooth and enables Wi-Fi. When you get home, just tap this button so your phone saves battery on the services it might not need.

Third-party plugins are responsible for helping Tasker learn a lot of new skills since it first came out. While you can do some cool things with the basic Tasker app, it’s hard to deny that adding voice commands or Cortana support is pretty awesome. You can find more plugins on the developer’s web site here.

For its part, IFTTT doesn’t have plugins, but it connects to other supported online services. This means that you can change your phone’s wallpaper by posting to Instagram, or turn on your home’s smart lights when you get home. You can check out IFTTT’s massive list of channels here. We couldn’t possibly highlight everything you could do with these, but there are a few that are particularly useful:

  • Amazon Alexa Channel: If you have an Amazon Echo, this channel triggers actions on your Android device remotely using Alexa. You can use this to unmute and find your phone if you lost it (though as we stated earlier, you might need two separate recipes to do this). You could also use create a command to turn your phone’s GPS on, so you can ask Alexa to do it before you leave for work instead of fiddling with your settings in the driveway.
  • Connected Home: IFTTT has an impressive collection of connected home channels. If you have WeMo, D-Link, Harmony, or Nest smart home gadgets, you can connect them to IFTTT easily, and with the Android channels, you can use your phone to turn your lights on when you get home or change the thermostat when you leave.
  • Pushbullet: Pushbullet is an awesome service that allows you to “push” messages and files from one device to another. You can already use it to bridge the gap between your phone, laptop, and tablet. With the IFTTT Pushbullet channel, you can do even more, like get notifications on your computer if you miss a phone call or if your phone’s battery gets low.

These are just a few examples, but you can see how channels that aren’t directly related to Android can still be useful.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-use-pus…

Tasker and IFTTT Are Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter: Good Alone, but Better Together

So, after all of that, which one is better? Well, neither one! Tasker is perfect for making creative, complex actions, and IFTTT serves as a simple glue between your phone and various other services. When you use each one for what they’re best at, you can do some pretty amazing things.

For example, you can use Tasker to create a custom voice command that will send a text message to IFTTT, which will then turn on your WeMo light switch. You can use Tasker alone to do this, but it’s more complicated. By using both services together, you can do even more awesome things with your phone, with even less effort.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Wouldn’t it be cool if your phone knew to enter airplane mode when you go to the theater, or text your spouse when you leave work? IFTTT and Tasker can automate countless tasks like these to turn your phone into an attentive personal assistant. Today, we’re putting them both in the ring to see which one’s better at simplifying your life.

The Contenders

One of Android’s greatest benefits is how much you can customize it to your liking. That doesn’t just mean you can change your font or use a different app launcher. That stuff is child’s play. Automation apps can do everything from switching off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when your battery gets low to turning your phone into a voice-controlled remote for your living room. Today, we’re looking at two of the most powerful automation tool on Android:

  • IFTTT: IFTTT is a web service that connects the other services you use every day like Evernote, Gmail, or Dropbox with simple instructions called “recipes.” A recipe consists of a trigger, like receiving an attachment in Gmail, and an action, like saving that attachment to Dropbox. Each service has its own channel of triggers and actions. The IF app for Android adds several channels specific to your phone that let you trigger actions based on where you are, when you receive a phone call, or your phone’s battery level. You can then perform actions like changing your system’s settings, sending texts, or even setting a new wallpaper. For example, you can tell IFTTT to automatically update your wallpaper with NASA’s newest image of the day. IFTTT isn’t limited to Android, which means it’s easy to connect your phone to the rest of your digital life.
  • Tasker: Tasker is a rules-based automation app for Android. With it, you can create “profiles” based on things like what application is running, what day it is, or where you are. Tasker then watches your phone to see when those conditions are met. Once they are, it can triggers “tasks” to do things like send texts, change settings on your phone, or play music. For example, you can tell Tasker to turn on airplane mode whenever you’re at the GPS location of your favorite movie theater. Third-party plugins like AutoVoice allow you to extend what you can do with Tasker even more.

The examples we’ve given just scratch the surface of what these two services can do. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out our readers’ favorite Tasker actions here. IFTTT also has a huge library of recipes you can browse if you’re not sure how to make your own. You can build on the work that many intrepid tweakers have already done to make your phone do some pretty amazing things.

http://lifehacker.com/5599116/how-to…

IFTTT Is Easier to Use But Limiting, While Tasker Is Powerful With a Steep Learning Curve

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

If we were to compare Tasker and IFTTT on ease of use alone, IFTTT would win with no contest. IFTTT’s recipes are built around a simple, familiar programming phrase: if this then that. If your phone leaves the house, turn off Wi-Fi. If Google Calendar says you’re in a meeting, mute your phone. This simplicity, combined with a gorgeous and accessible app design, makes it easy for just about anyone to automate simple tasks.

On top of this, IFTTT already has a huge library of published recipes from existing users. You can browse the library here, select a recipe you like, and click Add. Boom, you’re done. The most you have to do is install the IF app for Android and connect your various services to IFTTT. It couldn’t be simpler, even for beginners.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker

Tasker is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tasker’s interface is far more complex and the app comes with only the most basic tutorials. We have our own guide here that can help you get started. You’ll also need Tasker’s official wiki to understand many of the features in the app. There are also Tasker-focused user communities can provide templates for how to automate certain actions, and you’ve shared some of your favorite actions too,but if you can’t find an existing action for the thing you want to accomplish, you’re on your own. Unfortunately, being on your own involves a lot of trial and error, research, and troubleshooting. While you don’t necessarily need to be a coder to use Tasker, it will help to at least understand the logic of how automating simple tasks works. Which is more than IFTTT asks of its users.

Once you get over Tasker’s learning curve, though, your reward for climbing that hill is totally worth it. With Tasker, you can do nearly anything with your phone. For example, this person set up voice commands with Tasker to control his lights, TV, and home theater PC. Another built this makeshift one-handed mode for giant phones. You can use Tasker and a few plugins to make custom voice commands for anything Tasker can do. Most of these aren’t the kind of thing you could set up in five minutes, but Tasker is only limited by how much time you’re willing to put into it.

Android Automation Showdown: IFTTT vs. Tasker
Your average user probably has no idea what half of these Tasker options mean.

IFTTT, on the other hand, doesn’t give you nearly as much flexibility. You only have a small set of Android actions and triggers to choose from. For example, you can change your phone’s wallpaper, play music on your phone or from your favorite apps, and modify other system settings like volume, Wi-Fi, and more. Unfortunately, you can’t do more complicated things that Tasker is capable of, like create your own voice commands. In fact, you can’t even create IFTTT recipes with multiple triggers or actions. For example, say you wanted to create an action to find your lost phone by texting it, even if it’s muted. You can create one recipe to unmute your phone, and you can create a separate recipe to play a notification sound, but you can’t trigger both actions in the same recipe. This can get complicated if you want to perform two actions from the same trigger, since you can’t determine what order recipes are executed in.

Fortunately, you don’t have to use just one or the other (and we’ll come back to that), but for those who like tweaking their setup, Tasker is going to offer a lot more direct control. IFTTT is perfect for beginners or users who only want to do simple tasks.

http://lifehacker.com/5930652/unleas…

Tasker Plugins Give It New Powers, While IFTTT Can Connect to All Your Favorite Services

Tasker and IFTTT are both highly extensible, but in very different ways. Tasker supports third-party plugins, which add new functionality, while IFTTT connects to third-party online services to extend its features. Let’s start with Tasker. Here are a few of our favorite, most useful Tasker plugins:

  • AutoVoice: This plugin allows you to create custom voice commands to trigger Tasker actions. For example, in the home automation setup we mentioned earlier, one Tasker user used AutoVoice to create a voice command for “I’m home” that turns on all the lights in his house. It even integrates with Google Now so you can seamlessly use your own commands the same way you use Ok, Google.
  • AutoRemote: This plugin, when paired with AutoVoice, allows you to run your custom voice commands with Cortana in Windows 10. So, you could run that “I’m home” command from the last example while sitting at your desk, instead of having to pull out your phone. AutoRemote will simply forward the command to your handset, and Tasker will take it from there.
  • AutoNotification: With this plugin, you can create persistent notifications on your phone. Here, you can add buttons to manually trigger Tasker actions. For example, you could create an action that disables GPS and Bluetooth and enables Wi-Fi. When you get home, just tap this button so your phone saves battery on the services it might not need.

Third-party plugins are responsible for helping Tasker learn a lot of new skills since it first came out. While you can do some cool things with the basic Tasker app, it’s hard to deny that adding voice commands or Cortana support is pretty awesome. You can find more plugins on the developer’s web site here.

For its part, IFTTT doesn’t have plugins, but it connects to other supported online services. This means that you can change your phone’s wallpaper by posting to Instagram, or turn on your home’s smart lights when you get home. You can check out IFTTT’s massive list of channels here. We couldn’t possibly highlight everything you could do with these, but there are a few that are particularly useful:

  • Amazon Alexa Channel: If you have an Amazon Echo, this channel triggers actions on your Android device remotely using Alexa. You can use this to unmute and find your phone if you lost it (though as we stated earlier, you might need two separate recipes to do this). You could also use create a command to turn your phone’s GPS on, so you can ask Alexa to do it before you leave for work instead of fiddling with your settings in the driveway.
  • Connected Home: IFTTT has an impressive collection of connected home channels. If you have WeMo, D-Link, Harmony, or Nest smart home gadgets, you can connect them to IFTTT easily, and with the Android channels, you can use your phone to turn your lights on when you get home or change the thermostat when you leave.
  • Pushbullet: Pushbullet is an awesome service that allows you to “push” messages and files from one device to another. You can already use it to bridge the gap between your phone, laptop, and tablet. With the IFTTT Pushbullet channel, you can do even more, like get notifications on your computer if you miss a phone call or if your phone’s battery gets low.

These are just a few examples, but you can see how channels that aren’t directly related to Android can still be useful.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-use-pus…

Tasker and IFTTT Are Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter: Good Alone, but Better Together

So, after all of that, which one is better? Well, neither one! Tasker is perfect for making creative, complex actions, and IFTTT serves as a simple glue between your phone and various other services. When you use each one for what they’re best at, you can do some pretty amazing things.

For example, you can use Tasker to create a custom voice command that will send a text message to IFTTT, which will then turn on your WeMo light switch. You can use Tasker alone to do this, but it’s more complicated. By using both services together, you can do even more awesome things with your phone, with even less effort.

Stop Notifications From Interrupting Your Music With This Tasker Action

Android (Tasker): You’re driving home, rocking out to Queen, and suddenly Facebook interrupts your music to let you know you have a new comment. Your rhythm is now ruined. Fortunately Tasker can save you and your groove with this action.

The video above from WonderHowTo shows how to create a Tasker action that will automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode whenever you turn on your music. It will then disable DND once you stop playing music. You can still modify your settings to allow certain high priority notifications to get through even if you’re listening to music, but it should prevent the annoying social media stuff from interrupting your flow every thirty seconds.

How to Stop Notifications from Interrupting Your Music | WonderHowTo

Install Android TV on a Raspberry Pi and Sideload Apps

If you don’t mind dealing with a bit of instability, you can now install an unofficial version of Android TV on a Raspberry Pi 3.

This is still a super early build, so you won’t have access to the Google Play Store, but you can sideload apps. The performance of those apps isn’t consistent, but a number of them seem to perform well. For example, Kodi, as well as a number of game emulators, seem to work well. This is still very much an early build and not a complete operating system by any means, but if you don’t mind messing around with concepts, Android TV is working relatively well. The video above walks you through the full installation process.

Android TV for Raspberry Pi 3 | YouTube
How to Install Android TV on Raspberry Pi 3 and Sideload App | YouTube

How to Listen to and Delete Everything You’ve Ever Said to Google

How to Listen to and Delete Everything You've Ever Said to Google
Image: Google

Here’s a fun fact: Every time you do a voice search, Google records it. And if you’re an Android user, every time you say “Ok Google,” the company records that, too. Don’t freak out, though, because Google lets you hear (and delete) these recordings. Here’s how.

Head over to Google’s Voice and Audio Activity page and start deleting all those recordings. You can delete them individually or all at once, just click the More > Delete Options > Advanced to get there. Each file will also have a plaintext transcript and recording information associated with it for your perusal. While you’re shoring up privacy settings, you can also tell Google to stop tracking which web pages you visit here, or turn off everything from a map of stored locations to YouTube watch history on this page.

While voice recordings can be “paused,” they’ll be reactivated the next time you use Virtual Assistant, Voice Search, or say “OK Google.” Which kind of sucks! So stay diligent about deleting stuff, especially if you say anything embarrassing and/or incriminating to your phone.

Again, the recording feature is definitely more of a hinderance for Android users. That said, having the recordings available for users to listen to is markedly more transparent than similar services like Siri (which stores your data for up to two years, unless you turn off the service) or Amazon Echo (which may or may not be wiretapped by the FBI).

[The Independent]