Android 8.0 Oreo is now rolling out to all supported Pixel and Nexus devices across the globe

Android 8.0 Oreo was officially named last Monday, which is when the final version of it started going out to Pixel and Nexus devices enrolled in the Android Beta program. Yesterday, Verizon started rolling out the same build of Oreo to Pixel and Pixel XL units it’s sold.

In the meantime, the Oreo update has been spotted arriving on many more carriers across the world, for supported Pixel and Nexus devices – which are the Pixel and Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Nexus Player. So at this point the rollout is pretty much hitting every device that Google’s in charge of, software-wise.

The company has also posted the usual factory images and OTA zip files for anyone to download (check out the Source links below). You can install the OTA zip if you’re tired of waiting to receive the update through an actual over-the-air rollout. Though if you own a supported device and haven’t yet seen a notification regarding the new software, it’s best to first try and manually check by going to the relevant Settings menu.

The build number is OPR6.170623.011 for Pixels and Pixel XLs on Bell, Telus, Telstra, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and Rogers/Fido, and OPR6.170623.012 for every other carrier. The Nexus 6P gets the build ending in 013, but Google notes this is not for T-Mobile, US Cellular, or Fi – but hasn’t yet provided an alternative download. The Nexus 5X’s build is 013 also, while the Pixel C gets 010 and the Nexus Player gets nothing at this point – hopefully it won’t be too long before the console sees its update too.


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Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa are going to work together

Cortana and Alexa just went from being rivals to being besties. Microsoft and Amazon’s respective digital assistants are teaming up to work together later this year, the companies surprisingly announced today.

cortana alexa

That means you’ll be able to tap into Alexa’s smarts via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs and (further down the line) Microsoft’s mobile Cortana apps, or access Cortana via Amazon’s Echo devices and Alexa-enabled phones like the HTC U11 and Huawei Mate 9. You’ll need to specifically summon the assist, however, by saying “Cortana, open Alexa” or “Alexa, open Cortana.”

The timing might seem weird with Cortana-powered devices like the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker launching this fall. But with both digital assistants owning a firm niche—PCs and Office software for Microsoft, smart speakers for Amazon—the collaboration helps them extend their reach without stepping on each other’s toes too much. Cortana and Alexa need to battle Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, and unlike the competition they aren’t baked into smartphones by default.

“This agreement makes strategic sense as Alexa gets access to over 500 million Windows 10 seats and also gets access to high-quality productivity skills,” Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said in an email. “Cortana gets access to very diverse Alexa consumer and home automation skills.”

While the domain of digital assistants have largely been walled gardens to this point, Microsoft and Amazon are actively promoting how Cortana and Alexa work better together thanks to their focus on different aspects of your life.

“Say you are at work, and you receive a text from your partner saying, ‘We’re running low on diapers,’” Microsoft says in its announcement post. “In the future, on your Windows 10 PC, iPhone or Android phone, you could simply say, ‘Hey Cortana, open Alexa,’ and ask Alexa to order diapers using your preferred payment method for your Amazon account.”


Conversely, Microsoft writes, “What if you’re making breakfast in the morning and need to know if you have enough time to drop off the dry-cleaning before work? On your Alexa device, you can say, ‘Alexa, open Cortana,’ and ask when your first meeting is. If you won’t have enough time, simply ask Alexa to open Cortana again and set a reminder for the end of your workday to drop off the clothes.”

You could also use Cortana to ask Alexa to control your smart home devices, since many support Alexa skills. Which begs the question: Will this kill Microsoft’s attempts at bolstering Cortana support before it really gets off the ground? The Cortana Skills Kit preview only launched in May. Allowing Cortana to access the thousands of available interactions available on the wildly successful Amazon Echo could squash the dream of Cortana-powered appliances before it happens. Time will tell.


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Asus ZenBook laptops power up with quad-core CPUs and discrete Nvidia graphics

Bigger power comes to Asus’ slim, light laptops.

The battle over thin and light notebooks flared back to life at IFA 2017 on Wednesday. Mere hours after Acer revealed the Switch 7 Black Edition, a 2-in-1 laptop with a detachable keyboard and dedicated graphics chips, Asus unleashed an army of svelte new ZenBook laptops equipped with Intel’s new quad-core 8th-gen Core CPUs and discrete Nvidia GPUs of their own. We loved the last ZenBook Flip that crossed PCWorld’s test bench, so let’s dig in!

Asus beat the drum loudest for the ZenBook Flip 14, which it calls “the world’s thinnest 2-in-1 laptop with high-performance discrete graphics.” The 13.9mm-thin laptop packs the same somewhat mysterious GeForce MX150 chip as Acer’s Switch 7 to achieve that feat. Nvidia says the MX150 is three times more efficient and 30 percent faster than the GeForce 940MX it replaced. The laptop’s no slouch in other areas either, with a quad-core Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe SSD.

The ZenBook Flip 14 includes niceties beyond swanky graphics and a small size, though. Audio duties are handled by Harman Kardon, and the notebook packs a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello biometric authentication. A “NanoEdge” bezel let Asus include a 14-inch 1080p panel while giving the laptop a similar footprint to most 13-inch notebooks—and that display can flip a full 360 degrees.

zenbook flip s

The ZenBook Flip 15 is a bit larger and swaps out Nvidia’s MX150 chip for gamer-friendly GTX 1050 graphics. Asus puts the extra space to good use, offering your choice of 1080p and 4K displays with a 178-degree field of view, Thunderbolt 3-equipped USB-C ports, and up to a 2TB hard drive in addition to everything you find in the Flip 14.

Asus says the Flip 15 is the most powerful ZenBook Flip ever. If you want to push your gaming experience even further, the company also announced the ROG Station X2. This second-generation Asus graphics card dock lets you power up your laptop with full-blown desktop graphics cards. It connects over Thunderbolt 3.

The ZenBook Flip S is even smaller than the itty-bitty Flip 14, measuring in at just 10.9mm thick with a 2.42-pound heft. Despite that tiny size the 2-in-1 harbors an 8th-gen Core i7-8550U processor, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a fingerprint reader, as well as an option to upgrade to a 4K display.

The 14-inch ZenBook 3 Deluxe and 13-inch ZenBook 13 lack the rotatable displays of the Flip models but offer similar upgraded amenities, including thin-and-light designs, 8th-gen Intel Core processors, PCIe SSDs, Thunderbolt 3 ports, and tiny NanoEdge bezels. The ZenBook 13 also includes Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 discrete graphics. The company’s slightly thicker, but more affordable VivoBook laptops received the 8th-gen CPU treatment, too.

Availability and U.S. pricing for the ZenBook laptops weren’t announced. On the opposite end of the notebook spectrum, Asus’ ROG gaming brand revealed the ROG Chimera, a hefty gaming rig that brings buttery-smooth 144Hz G-Sync displays to laptops.


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Speed up Windows 10: Tips for a faster PC

Your Windows PC too slow? Here are nine speed tips to give your PC a performance boost without spending a dime.

Your computer is slow. Annoyingly slow. You can add RAM, or buy a faster SSD, but that costs money. No, the first thing you should do is try to make Windows faster. Thus we present nine ways to speed up your Windows 10 PC without spending a dime.

  1. Give it the reboot

If your PC is behaving horribly slow, try rebooting. Yes, it’s an obvious solution, but people tend to forget the obvious.

The sleep or hibernate setting will save power, but only a full reboot clears out the cobwebs in Windows’ brain and gives it a fresh start. Do it every day if the PC is really slow.

  1. Turn on High Performance

Windows assumes that you want an energy-efficient computer. But you can trade electricity for speed. Use this tip only if you’re willing to increase your electric bill and decrease your battery performance.

Right-click the Start button and in the resulting menu, select Power Options.

In the resulting Control Panel window, pull down the Show additional plans option. Select High performance.

  1. Undo some appearance options

Windows works hard to make the screen easy on the eyes.  If your PC is underpowered, you may want to sacrifice aesthetics and gain some speed.

Right-click Start, and select System. In the resulting Control Panel window’s left pane, select Advanced system settings.

This brings up the System Properties dialog box, already on the Advanced tab. Click the Settings button in the Performance box (the first of three “Settings” buttons on this tab).

This brings up another dialog box. You can uncheck some of the options, or simply select Adjust for best performance.

  1. Remove unneeded autoloaders

A whole lot of programs want to load automatically every time you boot. Each one slows down the boot process, and some continue to slow down Windows afterwards.

These are not all bad. Your antivirus program should load when you boot and keep running as long as your PC is on. Other programs that need to run in the background to work, such as OneDrive, should also autoload.

But some programs—even good ones that you use frequently—don’t really need to run all the time. You don’t want to uninstall those, but you may want to stop them from autoloading.

To see how bad the situation is, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the Startup tab. (If you don’t see any tabs at the top of the window, click More details in the lower-left corner.)

The Startup tab will show you all the autoloading programs. As you examine the list, think about what programs don’t really need to keep running at all times. To stop one from loading automatically, right-click its entry on the Startup tab and select Disable.

If you don’t recognize the name of an autoloader, right-click it and select Search online to help you find more information.

  1. Stop hog processes

Your computer may be running a poorly written process that’s hogging a lot of resources. To find out, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. (Once again, if you don’t see any tabs at the top of the window, click More Details.)

On the Processes tab, click the CPU column header to sort by processor usage. The top items will be the ones hogging the CPU. (If the top processes are all using 0%, the processes are sorted in the wrong direction. Click the column header again.)

Don’t assume that the top process is necessarily a hog. Some big applications are worth the CPU cycles. One way to manage these programs is to close them when you’re done with them. Another is to switch to a smaller program.

If the hog is Windows Driver Foundation, see this Windows Club article.

You can close a process from inside Task Manager. Select the process and click the End task button and confirm your decision. But this should be avoided.

When you’re done, click the Memory column header and repeat.

  1. Turn off search indexing

When you search for a word across all the files in your Documents library, the results come up almost immediately. That’s wonderful, but it comes at a price. When you’re not searching, the indexing needed to create those fast searches slows you down.

To turn off all indexing:

  1. Open Windows Explorer, right-click your C: drive, and select Properties.
  2. On the General tab, uncheck Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties.
  3. In the resulting warning box, select Apply changes to drive C:\, subfolders and files.

Windows may take some time turning off the indexing. Get up and take a walk; it’s good for you.

There’s another option that will let you turn off some indexing but not all of it:

Type indexing in the Cortana field. Select Indexing Options. Click the Modify button near the lower-left side of the resulting dialog box.

This brings up another dialog box, with two sections. And yes, it’s confusing. Start in the bottom section of the dialog box, Summary of selected locations. Click any of these options, and it changes the contents of the top section, Change selected locations.

  1. Turn off Windows tips

Windows 10 occasionally gives you tips about how you can better use the operating system. The problem is that, in order to see what tips you need, it keeps an eye on how you’re using your PC.

Yes, that sounds worrying from a privacy issue, but it also slows down your PC.

To turn it off, click Start > Settings. Select System, then select Notifications & actions in the left pane.

At the bottom of the Notifications section, turn off Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.

You might also want to explore the other notification options, and turn some of them off, as well. I don’t think any of the others slow down the PC, but they can get annoying.

  1. Clean your internal drive

If your internal storage is almost full—whether it’s a hard drive or an SSD—that could be slowing you down. But if your drive has plenty of free room, skip this section.

Start with Windows’ own Disk Cleanup tool. In the Cortana field, type disk and select Disk Cleanup.

Wait while Disk Cleanup examines your drive. Click the Clean up system files button (this time you’ll need an administrator password). Then wait again for another examination.

Examine the options. If you find one called Previous Windows installation(s), you’re in luck. By checking it and clicking OK, you’ll free up a lot of space. You can check other items to get rid of them, as well.

Something else you might want to consider: Uninstall programs you no longer use.

  1. Check for Malware

I doubt an infection is intentionally slowing down your PC. There’s no illegal profits from that. Plus it’s a sure-fire way to trigger a victim’s suspicions.

But some malicious code could be slowing down your PC, even if that wasn’t the criminal’s intention. So if you’re suspicious, read Eric Geier and Josh Norem’s guide on how to remove malware from your Windows PC.

If after performing these tips, your PC still feels sluggish, it might be time to upgrade your hardware. Start here, with PCWorld’s recommendations of killer, but shockingly cheap PC upgrades.


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CrashPlan alternatives: What home users can do, from staying put to exploring other services

The easiest way out (if not the cheapest)? Just upgrade to Crashplan’s business tier.

It’s been a week since CrashPlan decided to call it quits on its personal backup service. But CrashPlan isn’t going away—it’s just ending a program that probably wasn’t profitable. After the initial shock, home users should realize there’s absolutely no reason to panic—or even be hasty. The company will keep your data safe for an extra 60 days past the end of your current subscription, and it will keep its servers online until October 23, 2018. But it’s still a good time to figure out your next move, so we’ll walk you through the options.

CrashPlan option 1: Upgrade to a business plan

You needn’t leave CrashPlan at all if you turn your home plan into a business plan. Just pony up the $10 a month for the small business plan and keep on keepin’ on. The company (Code42) is also offering a 75% discount to users for the first 12 months.

CrashPlan option 2: Free or cheap alternatives

If the business plan doesn’t fit your budget, then what you need to do depends on how you used CrashPlan. If you simply maintained a backup of your current data with the service, you don’t even need to download your backup from CrashPlan. Just start backing up elsewhere.

There are any number of free services for small data sets: 15GB Google Drive, 5GB iCloud, 5GB OneDrive, and 5GB Dropbox. You may also choose from low-cost tiers of pay services, including the one CrashPlan recommends—Carbonite. In fact, Carbonite is offering a 50% discount for CrashPlan users.

CrashPlan option 3: Download archives

If you used CrashPlan for archiving—that is, you stored data on the company’s servers without keeping a local copy—then you’ll need to download that to your local PC before your subscription ends (plus the 60-day extension). The CrashPlan servers might be a tad stressed right after the announcement, but wait a couple of weeks and you should be able to download without undue delay. If you procrastinate, you could always move to the $10-a-month business plan until you got your act together.

CrashPlan option 4: External backup

If CrashPlan was your only backup, now is a good time to consider backing up your backup—combining a cloud service with backup to an external drive. Check out our backup software reviews to find our recommendations.

Note: This article was edited to capitalize the “P” in CrashPlan at the request of the company, as well as to note the one-year 75% discount for exiting users when they change to the business plan.


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How to transfer everything from your old Android phone to your new one

Moving to a new phone can be a pain. Android might have the edge over iOS when it comes to tight integration with cloud services, but Google still has a ways to go when it comes to effortlessly transferring all your data off your old phone and onto the new one.

But it has gotten better. You’ll need to rely heavily on Google’s services, of course, but with Android Nougat, moving your personal info has never been easier. It’ll still take a some vigilance and a little work, but you don’t need to be an Android whiz anymore to ensure your data is ready to move the next time a catastrophe hits your phone—or you just really want a new one.

Know your backup options

Before you can do anything, you’ll need to make sure your old phone is signed in to your Google account. It almost certainly is, but head over to the Google tab in Settings to make sure.

Then, you’ll need to find your phone’s backup settings. On Pixel and Nexus devices there’s a Backup & reset option under the Personal tab in Settings, but the location varies on other phones. The easiest way to find it is to type “backup” into the settings search bar.

Once you’re there, you’ll see a couple options. On Pixel and Nexus phones, there’s a Back up to Google Drive switch that will enable several types of content to be backed up, including installed apps and accompanying data, call history, device settings, calendar entries, contacts, photos and videos, and, exclusive to Pixel phones, SMS messages. It’ll be backed up automatically overnight, so once you switch it on, you won’t have to give it another thought.

On other phones, you’ll see a Back up my data toggle. Turning it blue will ensure that your application data, Wi-Fi passwords, and various phone settings are sent to Google servers and at the ready when you sign in to a new phone. This way you won’t have to re-enter passwords to networks you’ve already saved. Yes, that means Google probably has all the world’s Wi-Fi passwords. But that’s a story for another day.

You’ll also see a second toggle called Automatic restore. Turning that one on will restore the data and settings if you decide to reinstall a previously deleted app.

Since backups work through Google Drive, if you head over to the app, you’ll see a Backups option in the sidebar. Inside you’ll see a list of any device that has been backed up, with your current phone occupying the top slot (likely with a funky name like SM-G955U or 2PZC5). Tap it and you’ll be able to see when the last backup took place and which apps were included in it.

Mail, calendar, and contacts

If you don’t want to use Google Drive backups, you can still make sure your most important things make it over when you power on your new phone.

Mail, of course, is the easiest. If you use Gmail, you need only sign in to your Google account to bring over all of your messages. And your other accounts, whether Outlook, iCloud, or Hotmail, will be just as easy. Simply download your favorite app, type in your username and password, and you’ll be on your way. Additionally, there are numerous apps such as Newton and Blue Mail that will keep multiple accounts synced with a single login.

For people and appointments, Google has you covered here, too. Even without a proper Google Drive backup, any entries inputted into Calendar on your phone will automatically appear on your new phone as soon as you open the app. The same is true with Contacts. Whether you’re opening the app itself or using the Phone app, your contact list will be fully synced with your new phone, no matter which phone you’re switching from or to.

Photos and music

Photos are rapidly becoming the one thing that absolutely needs to be transferred from one phone to the next, and Google has built a fantastic way to do it in its Photos app.

Available for all phones, it’s far and away the best photo management option, backups aside, so if you’re not regularly using it, you should be. To make sure it’s backing up everything, head over to the Settings in the sidebar and tap Back up & sync. Make sure the toggle is blue and the backup account is the same as the one you use for everything else.

Google lets you back up as many high-quality photos as you’d like, and it won’t count against your Google Drive storage. If that’s not enough resolution for you, you can opt to back up the full-sized original photos to your Google Drive, but it’ll cost you. While Google gives Pixel users unlimited backups of their original photos, anyone else will have to use their allotted Google Drive space, so you might have to bump up your storage to accommodate the extra gigabytes. Google Drive users only get 15GB free, so if your camera roll is bigger than that, you can pay $1.99 a month for 100GB or $9.99 a month for 1TB of storage. But whichever size you choose, all of your photos will appear when you open the Google Photos app on your new phone.

When it comes to music, there are two ways to do it. If you already subscribe to a streaming service like Spotify, Google Play Music, or Apple Music, just head over to the app in your new phone and sign in to access all of your songs.

But if you aren’t a streamer, Google Play Music will still help you get your groove on, letting you store up to 100,000 tracks for free. To get it to work, you’ll need to head over to the Google Play Music site, sign in with your Google account, and install the Music Manager app on your PC. After you select the source of your tunes, the app does much of the work, uploading whatever it finds and adding it to your music library in the cloud. Big libraries will take a little time, but for the most part the process is simple and speedy.

Then, when you sign into Play Music on your new phone, all your tracks will magically appear. You can choose to keep those songs in the cloud if you’re tight on storage, or download them to your new phone so you can rock out no matter how spotty your signal gets.

Passwords and bookmarks

If you use Chrome on your phone, you can also take your browser history, passwords, and bookmarks to your new phone. First, head over to the Google tab in Settings (on pre-Marshmallow phones it will be a separate app called Google Settings), and scroll down to the Smart Lock for Passwords option.

This settings stores passwords from supporting apps and Chrome sites to your Google account. Switch it on, and the next time you sign into Chrome on your new phone you won’t have to re-enter the same passwords over and over. It works on third-party apps, too, as long as the developers have built in support.

If you’re leery about app passwords being stored in your Google account, you can blacklist any app from using Smart Lock. Or you can forgo it all together and download a password manager. There are plenty of great ones out there, including Dashlane, LastPass, and 1Password, and they’ll all store your passwords in an encrypted locker. Most charge a fee, but it’s worth it.

For the rest of your web needs, head over to the Chrome settings. Tap on your account name and then sync to see everything that you want to store in the cloud, including bookmarks, history, open tabs, and saved credit cards. Once you select the ones you want, they will all be available when you sign into Chrome on your new device.

SMS and MMS messages

This one is a little trickier than the others. If you own a Pixel phone on Android 7.1 or later, there is an option for backing up your SMS messages, though it will leave behind any photos or videos. If you use Allo, you can turn on chat backups in the latest version of the app, and everything will be synced to your new device, including media. And, of course, if you use WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, or some other third-party service, you only need to sign in to the appropriate app to access your full chat history.

But the most fool-proof way to move all of your messages from Android Messages or your text-messaging app of choice to a new phone is an over-the-top service. There are several in the Play Store—SMS Backup+ and SMS Backup & Restore are two of the most popular and highest rated—and they act as a sort of middleman that collects your messages until you’re ready to transfer them to a new app.

It’s not the speediest process, so you’ll need to carve out some time to let it run if you have a lot of messages, but it works quite well. In a recent test, we used SMS Backup+ to back up and restore a batch of more than 2,000 messages on a test device without a problem. It’s baffling why Google hasn’t implemented a similar system in Android, but for now, apps like SMS Backup+ will certainly do the trick.

One word of warning, however: Don’t wipe your old phone until you’re sure your messages have appeared on your new one. This way you’ll be able to start over if something goes awry during the transfer.

Some software to ease the move

Most Android phone makers offer their own helping hands when it comes to moving over your stuff. Granted, they’ll work best when changing to the same brand (like a Galaxy S7 to a Galaxy S8), but they all generally do a fine job.

Samsung offers its own service called Smart Switch that’s now built right into Settings on the Galaxy S8. Turn it on and it will sync the same things Google does (contacts, calendar entries, etc.), plus your notes, alarms, messages, and even your home screen layout to your new phone. It works with non-Samsung phones as well, though it works best if you also use Samsung’s own Galaxy apps.

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Google’s Tango becomes ARCore: Phone AR for the masses

For the past year or so, Google’s augmented-reality aspirations have been extremely modest, with its Tango AR platform running on just two phones (and one of them just came out a couple weeks ago.) But now Google is releasing ARCore, which will bring the power of Tango to millions more Android phones.

Like Apple’s ARKit, ARCore works without any additional hardware. The launch of the developer preview will be limited to Pixel and Galaxy S8 phones running Nougat and above, but Google is aiming to get ARCore on 100 million devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Asus, and others by the time the preview ends later this year.

Reality check: ARCore may be bad news for Asus and its new Zenfone AR, which will now be less special, but it’s great news for everyone else. AR is a far more interesting platform than VR, if for no other reason than you don’t need any additional hardware to use it. But AR is also a more viable platform for everyday use. While the full immersion of a VR headset may have a higher wow factor than AR, the practicality of augmented reality—measuring, shopping, traveling, and performing other actions atop the real world—are greater. By putting real AR in the hands of millions of users (not just Pokemon Go), Google will put the platform on fast forward, and it won’t be long before it’s more than just a parlor trick.

A new reality

Like Tango, the ARKCore SDK works with Java/OpenGL, Unity and Unreal, and focuses on three core areas: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. In practice, that means objects will scan your surroundings to figure out the best surfaces for placement, study the light to approximate shadows, and adjust position as you move.

It’s all the things Tango does (minus the depth sensing), except you won’t need a dedicated phone with a fancy camera anymore. Google is even releasing a prototype browser for web developers to play around with, too. And as announced at I/O, the company is still working on its larger-scale Visual Positioning Service, which will enable “world scale AR experiences” for indoor mapping, among other things.

Even in preview mode, ARCore is a huge step for AR on Android. Not only does it mean that AR will no longer be limited to such a small subset of users, it’s also sure to bring an influx of apps ready to take advantage of the platform. While there are some good Tango apps in the Play Store, they are few and far between, mainly because the audience was so small. With a larger reach, developers will surely pick up the pace.

This also puts Google on even footing with Apple. Ever since WWDC, Apple has been spotlighting things iOS developers have been creating with ARKit, and to put it mildly, they’ve been running circles around Tango. With a platform built for all, AR could quickly become a new battleground for the two companies.

ARCore is available for developers who have a Pixel or Galaxy S8 beginning today, and Google promises it will “have more to share later this year.

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8 cool Android Nougat features you’re probably not using

Google used to produce a rather bare-bones version of Android, counting on OEMs like Samsung and LG to add in all the other cool features people might want. But today’s stock Android is more powerful, more feature-rich, and more attractive without any help from the device makers.

Android Nougat beauty

In fact, Google has pushed OEMs to use even more of the basic Android experience without making unnecessary changes. This could mean some awesome features are lurking inside your phone that you don’t even know about. So here are eight cool features inside Nougat (Android 7.0) you’re probably not using.

Split-screen Chrome

Android 7.0’s split-screen app capabilities are well known, but there’s one app that includes a very cool and useful feature that isn’t so obvious: The Chrome browser lets you run two different tabs on the screen at once.

To run two webpages in split-screen, open Chrome and ensure you’ve got at least two tabs open. Long-press your Android overview button (it’s the one shaped like a square, right next to the home button) to launch split-screen mode as you normally would. Now tap the overflow menu button in Chrome, and select “Move to other window” (see screenshot above).

The tab you have up will move over to the other side of the split as a second instance of Chrome. When you’re done, exit split-screen mode by dragging the divider to one side. The tab will go back into your single Chrome instance. You can also close the tab and open a different app in split-screen mode.

Clear all apps in multitasking

Sometimes you just need to start fresh in your overview screen, or shoo away all those open apps. Not all Android devices offered a quick way to do that before, but as of Android 7.0, there’s a proper “clear all” option for the overview list on all devices.

Some OEMs like Samsung and LG make the Clear All button very accessible at the bottom of the screen—maybe even too accessible, as you can accidentally hit it and close all your open apps. On Google’s build of Android (and those based closely on it, like Motorola’s), you can find a Clear All option at the top of your stack of apps. Just scroll all the way up, and you can press the button to remove all apps. Importantly, this does not clear background tasks—it only ends user-facing activity.

Third-party quick settings

All phones and tablets running Android 7.0 include a customizable quick settings panel. However, there’s another aspect of this feature that might interest you. You can also use third-party quick settings tiles on any device. To find out if you have any, open the quick settings and tap the edit button (it looks like a pencil).

Below the main list of settings is a selection of unused tiles. Any apps you’ve installed that have their own quick settings tiles will show up here. You can long-press and drag to add or remove apps. You can get quick access to things like VPN connections (PIA), a Twitter client (Flamingo), and a variety of custom settings (Tile Extension for Nougat).

App install source

Google has gradually been beefing up the information available in your app settings interface. Nougat added a particularly cool new feature: You can now see where an app came from—Google Play or a sideloaded APK.

To find this bit of info, open your system settings and select “Apps.” Pick any app in the list and scroll down to the bottom of the info screen. It will say either “App installed from Package Installer,” or “App installed from Google Play Store.” For those apps installed via the Play Store, you can tap the embedded link to go right to the app’s listing in the Play Store. The package installer link for sideloaded apps won’t do anything, though.

Quick app switching

Google revamped the multitasking interface back in Lollipop, but Android 7.0 offers a new, faster way to flip between apps. If you need to get back to the last app you had open, you don’t have to tap on the card in the overview screen.

Just double-tap the overview button, and you’ll switch to the last app. Do it again, and you’ll return to the app you just left. This should work on all Android devices running Nougat or higher.

App shortcuts

Google’s new app shortcuts (previously known as launcher shortcuts) are one of the few new features that rolled out as part of Android 7.1 Nougat. That means phones and tablets on 7.0 won’t have them. But for those devices that do have app shortcuts, you now have faster access to useful menus and features right from your home screen. All it takes is a long-press on the app icon.

With the long-press menu up, you can tap on the list of shortcuts to open the app to the corresponding screen or action. For example, Google Drive has search, scan, and upload as app shortcut options. Settings has battery, data usage and Wi-Fi. The phone dialer will show you options for frequent contacts.

There’s another layer here: If you find yourself often going to the same place and doing the same thing in an app, you can make the long-press app shortcut into a regular home screen shortcut. Simply long-press on one of the shortcuts and drag it out of the pop-up menu. It becomes an icon that you can drop anyplace you want, and then launch it with a tap.

Pin apps to share menu

The Android share menu makes it easy to push links and files from one app to another. However, if you have a lot of apps installed, the list of apps and actions in the menu can get rather ungainly. There’s a little-known feature in Nougat that can help: If you’re frequently using the same few apps in the share menu, long-press on them in the menu. You get a popup that offers to link the app info settings or pin the app.

Pinned actions in the share menu always appear at the top of the list for easier access. But be aware, this works only in the native Android share menu. If an app implements its own version of the share activity, your pinned apps may not be visible at the top.

Data saver

Most of us have to live with capped mobile data plans, but Android 7.0 added a new feature that can help you stay under the cap. The aptly named Data Saver feature is available on virtually all Nougat phones under the Data Usage settings menu. Data Saver lowers your mobile data usage by preventing apps from using data in the background. Just turn it on, and apps will pull down bytes only when you’re actively using them.

All phones have at least a few apps and services that are exempted from the Data Saver restrictions. You can see which ones have unrestricted access in the Data Saver settings (they’re usually Google Play Services, notification handlers, and other system components). You can turn unrestricted access on or off for any app, but be aware you might break things.

There’s still a lot of neat stuff lurking inside Nougat. And with Android O just around the corner, just think of all the surprises to come.

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How to test your home internet connection speed

Testing your internet connection’s performance is a straightforward exercise. You don’t need any extra software—all you need is a computer with a web browser. But there are also a few things you can do to make sure you are getting the most accurate reading of your internet connection. Here’s what to do.

Get ready

For best results, you want to use a wired connection if at all possible; that way, you don’t have to worry about interference and performance fluctuations that can occur while you’re on Wi-Fi. If you have any other wired devices on your home network, plug your test computer directly into the modem so those don’t interfere in your testing.

If you’re stuck using Wi-Fi—say, you have a MacBook Air or a tablet or some other device that doesn’t have an ethernet port—do what you can to minimize interference. Make sure your Wi-Fi router is away from other electronic devices like cordless phones, and temporarily disconnect any other devices from your Wi-Fi network—after all, you don’t want another computer on your network to download a gigabyte worth of software updates while you run your tests.

While you’re at it, double-check to make sure your computer isn’t downloading something in the background. Check the Task Manager on Windows (summoned by pressing control-alt-delete) or Activity Monitor on MacOS, and look for network statistics (it’s labelled “Network”on MacOS, “Networking” on Windows).

Close or quit all apps on your computer to keep apps from downloading software updates while you test your connection. Your bandwidth usage may not drop to zero and stay there, but you want it as close to zero as it’ll get. If your operating system is downloading updates, there isn’t much you can do aside from wait and test your connection later.

If you’re having any problems with your connection, now is a good idea to reset your modem and router. Switch them off and unplug them for a few moments, then plug them back in and switch them on.

Test your connection

Ookla’s is the most common site to test your internet connection; all you need is a web browser with JavaScript turned on (it usually is unless you switched it off) and Adobe Flash installed. There are a couple of alternatives if you don’t have Flash installed (and don’t want it installed). There’s an HTML 5 version of Ookla’s, or you can use, which also uses HTML 5.

All you have to do at this point is click the green “Begin Test” button, and will check both your download and upload speed. This may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on your network speed.

Those aren’t your only options for testing your broadband connection; MegaPath also offers a speed test, as well as what it calls Speed Test Plus, which evaluates the quality of your connection in addition to its raw speed. Your ISP might also offer a speed test tool, though you may need to do a little poking around for it. And router manufacturers are increasingly including speed tests in their products’ firmware and/or the mobile apps they distribute with their products (although in that latter case, you’ll be using a wireless connection).

Isolate the problem

Don’t be surprised if you’re not getting the top speed your ISP says it can deliver—almost no one does. But if your connection is significantly slower than what was promised, many different factors could be coming into play. There might be a problem with your equipment, or it could be an issue on your ISP’s end. Most ISPs maintain a tech-support page where you can go to see if they’re aware of any problems with their service. This link will take you to the location of AT&T’s DSL troubleshooter.

If your ISP isn’t reporting a problem, you can start your own troubleshooting by eliminating your equipment as a factor. First try using a different computer. If you get acceptable performance on the second machine, you can’t blame the ISP. If the second computer also has a slow internet connection, run another bandwidth test after each of these suggestions: Try using a different ethernet cable to connect your PC to your router. Try swapping out the cable that connects your router to your internet gateway (your DSL, fiber, or cable modem). Troubleshoot your router: Turn it off or unplug it for a minute or two and then turn it back on. You should always be running the latest firmware on your router, so this is a good time to update it if you haven’t lately. If you’re still not seeing an improvement, try power-cycling your DSL, cable, or fiber modem.

If you’ve jumped through all of those hoops, and you’re still have performance issues, it’s time to call your ISP’s tech-support line.

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The Asus ZenBook Flip S is the world’s thinnest laptop

The Asus ZenBook Flip S is the thinnest convertible laptop in the world–at least for now. Announced Monday at Computex in Taipei, the ZenBook Flip S is the latest to snatch the trophy as vendors wage an eternal battle to shave down their portable PCs. The 10.9-millimeter profile of the ZenBook Flip S currently takes the record. The laptop will be available later this year at prices starting at $1,099. Read more about it below, and also two other slender notebooks Asus announced at its Monday event at Computex in Taipei.

Thin is always in

Asus was very specific in showing how thin the ZenBook Flip S is compared to the competition. Chairman Jonney Shih laid it out in his presentation:

HP Spectre x360: 13.8mm

MacBook Air: 17mm

MacBook: 13.1mm

ZenBook Flip S: 10.9mm

At just 2.4 pounds, the Zenbook Flip S is also lighter than the HP Spectre x360 and the MacBook Air, though not the 2-pound MacBook. Yet it packs the heavyweight punch of Intel’s Corei7-7500U processor and can accommodate up to a terabyte of PCIe SSD storage.

Like all convertibles, the screen can be folded all the way around and the laptop used in a tablet configuration. The touch display has a 4K resolution (3,840×2,160 pixels) and support for Windows Ink with an optional Asus Pen. Corning’s Gorilla Glass adds durability. When the screen unfolds past 135 degrees, the hinge props up the keyboard from the back to create a more comfortable angle for typing.

The computer’s accessories include a tiny fingerprint sensor for one-touch login via Windows Hello in laptop or tablet mode. There are a couple of USB-C ports and support for fast charging. Asus says the battery will last for 11.5 hours and can be fast-charged to 60 percent of capacity—about 7 hours—in just 49 minutes.

Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe

170529 zenbook 3 deluxe

Asus has upgraded its ZenBook 3 laptop with a new model that carries the “Deluxe” name. The UX490 is the thinnest 14-inch laptop on the market at 12.9 millimeters thick, according to Asus.

It weighs 2.4 pounds and is the first laptop to feature Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, the latest version of the popular impact-resistant glass, Asus said. The company said it can support up to 9 hours of battery life and will be available at prices starting from $1,199.

Like the Flip S, the computer is based on a Core i7 processor and has up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. The twin USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 3, so dual 4K monitors could be hooked up, but the laptop itself offers just a Full HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) panel.

For gaming-level graphics performance, the laptop can be connected to the Asus ROG XG Station 2 external graphics dock, which can support cards as large and hot as the NVidia GTX 1080.

Asus ZenBook Pro

asus zenbook pro ux550 blue 07

The third addition is the ZenBook Pro UX550. Starting at $1,299, it’s based around the Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics card.

It’s both thinner and lighter than previous ZenBook Pro machines at 18.9 millimeters and just under 4 pounds. It has a spacious 15.6-inch 4K screen. Asus has found room for a four-speaker audio system, battery life is an impressive 14 hours according to Asus, and it comes with a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello biometric login.

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