Choose black

Black is a black and white film emulator app with a curve tool

Black is a new app in the Windows Phone Store. It wants to be the first Black and White analogue film simulator for Windows phones.

There are apps like VSCO Cam for Android that have carved a niche in the hearts of photographers around the world for emulating film on smartphones. There are a number of apps with filters in the Windows Phone Store that work pretty fine, but Black is slightly different from the rest.

The people behind Black, Alvaro Arregui and Peter Stojanowski, wanted to create an emulator app for black and white films. They researched and analysed a number of films and got the exact values that will make photos look like they were shot on film.

They then dropped the features into a beautiful and functional app.

You are bound to be happy with the results that you get with Black. It does a good job by being faithful to the film it emulates and it does so in a beautiful and functional app!

The app has a curve tool. This tool is one of the more powerful ways of editing your photos on Photoshop. There is no app for Windows phones that has a curves tool.

This tool is a wonderful way of adjusting the contrast in a tonal region.

The performance could be better.

This is, after all, the first version of the app. The developers have said that an update will be out soon that will take care of any performance issues or stability problems that users may come across.

The app sure promises to get better with each update.

The app is free and you can use it on your Windows phones right now.

You can download the app, check out the user interface, try out the black and white film emulators, and leave feedback for the developers to improve an app that has a lot of potential.

This article was first published on The Hindu and is available at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/choose-black/article7248936.ece

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Your lock screen gets interesting

With the LokLok app, the first thing you see on your phone is a sweet message from a friend or a loved one, even when your phone is locked

We often come across apps that make us do a double take, and LokLok is one of them. This app has been developed by Kwamecorp, a creative and technology consultancy. The idea seems to be pretty simple – make your lock screen do something special. The app replaces the locked screen of your phone with a new one on which you can draw and place pictures. The possibilities are endless. You wake up in the morning and the first thing you see on reaching for your phone is a sweet message from a friend or a loved one. You will be able to see this message in spite of your phone being locked. The message could also be a cute little doodle. That is some pretty cool stuff.

This nifty app works only on Android. The reason being, only Android allows you to do stuff like this on its screen. So, how does this app work? You have to either invite a friend or accept a friend’s invitation to get started. Once that is done, you screens are in sync. So, if you start doodling, the app will instantly update your friend’s phone!

This app does look innovative and is a far cry from many apps available in the market. In addition to placing pictures, this app does other stuff that’s quite clever. It lets you doodle on the screen, doodle over photos, share messages within a group or in private. It is a lot like a white board. You will have to wipe it clean after every use. Also, the doodles and the images are transient and they disappear the moment you clear your screen.

The app does have a few issues and an unstable network is one of them. But, as the app is still in Beta, we can give it some time and see how it measures up.

This article was first published on The Hindu and is available at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/your-lock-screen-gets-interesting/article7224754.ece

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Smart jewelry in the making

The nine different items that they will offer range from a keychain to leather and metal bracelets, necklaces, and pendants — each with a CuffLinc embedded inside.

These days, as advancements in wearable technology abound, it is easy to see that their focus is on function rather than form. But, for wearable technology to go mainstream, things will have to change.

This is what San Francisco-based start-up, Cuff, seems to have realised. Cuff announced a whole new line of wearables with an aim of making technology that you would want to wear and show off. The accessories are also quite different from the current wearables in the market. The company is positioning its product as a security system that can help you reach a pre-defined circle of people who you trust.

The whole system works on CuffLinc. It is a small black tracker that you can place in any of the nine different accessories that the company is coming up with. It comes with an accompanying iOS app that you can set up with your CuffLinc and find people from your contacts who use the product and build your network.

The iOS app lets you go more granular with the alert mechanism. By double-clicking the CuffLinc, you can send an alert to any one of the members in your network, without the rest of them getting to know about it. The vibration system can be customised to let the recipient know whether it is a real emergency.

The people at Cuff are already thinking of various features that they can add to the device down the line. Since it is connected to your phone via Bluetooth, they feel that it can be used as a remote to call various features, including skipping a song or taking a photo, or making your phone ring to get out of a date going really bad.

These new features, enabled through a software update, can be assigned different click patterns to trigger your phone for various activities. Charging the batteries is not a problem at all. CuffLinc comes with non-replaceable batteries and each battery powers it for a year. Once you have used it for a year, you will receive a notification that will ask you to buy a new one.

The company’s ‘fashion first’ sensibility seems to be more important than the technology used. They believe that if people do not want to wear your technology, then it will never really catch on. The nine different items that they will offer range from a keychain to leather and metal bracelets, necklaces, and pendants – each with a CuffLinc embedded inside. The metal pieces come with a silver or gold plating and the leather pieces come in two colours.

They do seem to be targeting the feminine market with these first pieces, but they are undoubtedly the most stylish wearables on the market. The company envisages other makers producing jewelry that will be compatible with CuffLinc, thereby making a collection. If you do not like any of the pieces in the first set, fret not, for something else down the line might suit your taste.

It will be some time before we are able to gauge the device’s success. For, the pieces (priced at $49, $99, and $199) are ready to be pre-ordered. If you would like one of these, visit their website and pre-order one now!

The company’s ‘fashion first’ sensibility seems to be more important than the technology used.

 This article was first published on The Hindu and is available at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/smart-jewellery-in-the-making/article7224755.ece

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Let the music play

Send, receive and listen to millions of songs without having to worry about the cost.

Music Messenger is ready to take the world by storm. It has positioned itself to become the largest music sharing company in the world, leaving industry leaders like Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group behind. This app already has over two million users.

It has come up with a simple way of sharing music, a WhatsApp for song sharing, if you will.

The company is based in Israel and the app has been developed by David Strauss and his colleagues. For them, this app began as a way for friends to share music amongst themselves. As a result, they identified a key feature that is missing from existing technologies – the ability to share your favourite music with your friends in an easy-to-access message.

This app is fully compliant with copyright laws as it does not host original content. The company taps into open sources like YouTube, Yahoo, SoundCloud, and Baidu. This lets them aggregate a music library of hundreds of millions of songs in any language and from many regions.

So, as long as these sites grow, the music library of Music Messenger also grows and is updated constantly. Also, users can create music libraries and playlists of songs that their contacts have shared and also search for specific songs that they want to listen to.

Spotify requests annoying fees because of copyright and licensing laws. Also, the service is unavailable in some countries. Music Messenger, which can be downloaded on Android and iOS devices, has the upper hand, for it is a messaging tool that can be used to share music with an unlimited number of people all over the world. People can send, receive and listen to millions of songs without having to worry about the cost.

This article was first published on The Hindu and is available at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/let-the-music-play/article7198924.ece

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Companion Cube

We have, more often than not, come across a color that is so different and beautiful that we fall short of words to describe it. You’ve liked the colour so much that you want it on your bedroom walls. The problem is, the colour is on a leaf. You might want to pluck it and carry with you as a sample. But, unfortunately, the leaf will wither in a couple of days. This is where the SwatchMate Cube comes in the picture. This cube is a genius invention that lets designers and artists expand their colour palettes to just about any colour that Mother Nature offers. This little cube “records”, if you will, different colours and stores them for your convenience. While this does sound very strange, it has a simple and clever explanation.

The cube behaves like a “swatchgrabber”, where “swatch” refers to the recorded colour. It has an inner sphere that is situated inside along with a light source and a colour sensor to record any colour that is placed under it.

The cube will automatically record and save a specific shade irrespective of whether the object is a wall, leaf, or a flower. The device then converts your preferred colour into a usable and workable format. It sends the swatch to your smartphone and Photoshop using Bluetooth Low Energy. The cube’s memory can store up to 20 swatches internally.

The makers have created this cube with designers and artists on their minds. This makes it easier for them to draw inspiration from various surroundings with natural colours and also offer a limitless colour palette. In addition, they can colour-grade their images with SwatchMate.

This design is turning out to be extremely popular with people. The makers turned to Kickstarter to raise money for producing the cube. They wanted to raise AUD 55,000 and ended up raising an astonishing AUD 100,317!

With donations adding up to almost double their goal, they now plan to take it to another level by introducing additional features like a light intensity monitor and a thermometer.

The brilliance of this idea is sure to grab the attention of many. It won the Melbourne Design Award in 2013 in addition to the Sydney Design Award. The SwatchMate has also been shortlisted for the Brisbane Design Award in 2014.

This sure is a great invention that could help designers and artists tremendously. But, it is innovative enough to grab the attention of others as well!

You can buy one for $179.95 from their e–shop. Know more at http://www.swatchmate.com

This article was first published on The Hindu and is available at  http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/companion-cube/article7198902.ece

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Synchronise Desktop and Mobile

Pasteasy helps you copy text, links, photos, files, and screenshots between desktop and Android phone

Pasteasy is a productivity app that makes your daily workflow simple and speeds it up, thereby saving you valuable time. It lets you share a clipboard between your devices privately. This means, you can simply copy and paste to move text, or share photos privately.

You can use it to copy snippets of text, various links, share photos, files, and screenshots. It is very useful if you want some text on your phone but are really not very comfortable typing on the touch screen. You can type it out on your computer and paste it to your Android to send! You can share photos easily from the gallery of your phone right to your computer, and transfer as many photos you want in just one shot. You can also take screenshots on your computer or phone and they will appear automatically on the other device. If you copy a URL on your phone, the app will automatically open and load the webpage on your computer’s browser.

Pasteasy is a very useful app for those who work with more than one device, irrespective of the profession.

One of the best features of this app is that it syncs the clipboard instantaneously, thereby making it ridiculously simple to share text and photos without the need of any extra effort. Users will only need to interact with the app to connect the devices. There is the question of the privacy of your data. The makers say that the data is encrypted and you can use your local WiFi to share. In fact, if you have a portable hot spot, you will not need WiFi. In order to connect to a device, users will have to scan a bar code. This means, you will not need an email address, a phone number, a shared link, a friend request, or anything of that sort to share photos.

This app is versatile enough to work across Android, iOS, and Windows platforms.

Find the original article at http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/pasteasy-synchronises-desktop-and-mobile/article7173626.ece

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Invisible paint for safety

Life paint is a retro-reflective, rainproof, washable spray-on paint that reflects light back towards its source, especially at night.

It is a good time to bike. With an increasing number of people gravitating towards cars and motorcycles, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is shooting up every day. Cycling sure makes for a tremendous workout, and helps keep pollution levels in check, provided enough people choose to do so. However, cycling at night can be dangerous. To minimise this risk, Volvo has come out with a retro-reflective temporary paint that is more like the safety tape and reflective panels sewn into biking and jogging jackets than your average glow-in-the-dark spray. This paint, called LifePaint, is a by-product of the branding partnership between Volvo, creative agency Grey London, and Albedo100. You might get similar products in other countries, but they will not go by the name of LifePaint.

According to the makers, this spray-on product can be used on textiles and shoes, and just about everything, except leather. But, the product reportedly has problems sticking on to nylon and plastic. You can wash the paint off with your regular laundry detergent. It has an adhesive mixed with it that can cause irritation to sensitive skin types. So, you would be better off spraying it from a distance to make sure it comes off your clothing after one wash.

Also, the paint is rain-proof, as long as you have applied it on dry fabric. The bond between the paint and the fabric is broken by detergent, not water.

Once it has been applied, the paint is supposed to be invisible in daylight, as long as it does not have a bright light shining on it directly. By design, it is supposed to reflect light back towards its source (a lot like a reflective tape). At night, light from vehicle headlights will bounce off the paint and make everything smeared with it look like a glowing blob. And it is a lot easier to see a glowing blob.

LifePaint is intended for fabrics because Albedo100 has a number of permanent solutions, including “Permanent Metallic” that is supposed to be used on bikes, signs, and stencilled patterns.

While we are on the subject of water-soluble glowing paints, there is a water-soluble version of the paint called “Horse and Pets” that can be sprayed on horses, cats, dogs, and all the animals that keep running on to the road. This helps drivers spot them and avoid having to swerve or brake at the last minute.

A can of invisible spray costs about £12.99. While it is not the cheapest option available, it is definitely more affordable and versatile than glowing bikes!

Know more by visiting http://www.albedo100.co.uk

Find the original article at http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Motoring/lifepain-is-an-invisible-paint-for-safety/article7173629.ece

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Freedom always comes for a price

We, as Indians, do enjoy the freedom to do just about anything. You could spend your day doing anything you like – driving around to wherever you want, learning a new language, or making a catalogue of all the videos of dogs jumping the trampoline. You could be a baker, a blogger, or you could start a business making cup cakes.

This delicious freedom comes at a cost – the constant need to make choices. This would not be so bad if we were not as terrible as we are at making choices.

Surprisingly, the more choices we have, the more difficult it becomes for us to make a decision. Ask someone to choose a dress in one of three colours, and you would see that they will not face too much of a problem. But, ask them to choose any colour they can imagine and they could have the dress in that colour, you will see them ponder for hours.

When we are presented with infinite options, it is just not possible to pick out the best. Our fear of making a wrong choice will forbid us from making a choice at all. Also, we like decisions that are easy to make. This makes it very easy to manipulate us. If we are given two choices, we are prone to act against our best interests.

Impairing our freedom is the solution to making better choices. We have to make hard decisions that will restrict our ability to make dumb decisions later. We have to plan for our own weakness.

Satisfice

This solution works when we are faced with a decision that has infinite options. A satisficer looks for the first decision that satisfies his needs sufficiently. Of course, it always helps to know how you will reverse a decision. Although, you will rarely need to do that, it does free you from the fear of making a decision without any flaws.

Fewer choices

Steve Jobs wore the same outfit to work every day. Mark Zuckerberg does the same. Obama prefers only two colours of suits. Such routines, that do not require a lot of brain activity, ensures you mind is unencumbered for decisions that really matter.

Start with the most difficult and important things

Get the most important and difficult things done at the beginning of your day. Generally, our will power starts fading by lunch time. It is advisable to keep the fun stuff for later in the day, where choices become easier and they cannot harm you.

Turn off as many distractions as possible

The Internet in our pocket tends to be a bane when we are working. Keep your phone, email, and other distractions aside when you work. This will ensure that you don’t reach for them easily even if you try.

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