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The Change Logs of Android App Updates Are an Opportunity, Not a Burden

Many Android developers made the change logs of Play Store apps useless by skipping them or providing useless information. Google didn’t set high standards either. It’s time to improve change logs or make them go away.

Or perhaps turn change logs into an opportunity.

A typical Android user may get half a dozen updates per day. With no change logs or some indication of what changed, no user is going to check each feature of each updated app just to figure out what's new.

Although not many users may read change logs, those who do can help promote an app and generate buzz around it.

Think for example of the tech bloggers, YouTubers, and journalists who report on what new features come with app updates. Or the power users who let their friends know about cool new features. In these days of visibility challenges and millions of apps in the Play Store, the information on updates can help spread the voice about apps and make them stand out.

Change logs are an opportunity also for the dev…

How to Work With Astronomical Data: A Tutorial

Markus Pössel posted the review paper A Beginner’s Guide to Working with Astronomical Data. It’s a comprehensive overview of processing astronomical images, spectra, and catalog data with application software and the Python programming language. The paper also covers simulations and simulated data.

The value of this paper is it distills into a single resource a lot of material available elsewhere, and provides guidance on getting started with the major categories of astronomical data.

Google Finally Pitches Chromebooks to Consumers

Google has updated the Chromebooks landing page and is doing a Chrome OS marketing campaign. These promotional activities focus on consumers and switching to a Chromebook from a traditional desktop operating system.

Hallelujah!

So far Google targeted Chromebooks to the educational and corporate worlds, where it was easier to get a head start, and more recently to creators. But it has always been in the consumer space where Chromebooks can provide significant benefits to the majority of ordinary desktop users at home. They spend most of the time in a browser anyway and Chrome OS offers additional advantages such as nearly no maintenance, simplicity, improved security, unobtrusive system updates, affordability, and more.

Now, if only Google could make it easier for consumers to buy Chromebooks outside of the US...

The Killer Use for My Google Home Mini

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I found the killer use for my Google Home Mini: listening to podcasts and audiobooks while in bed.

The device provides the perfect combination of content and user experience. Audiobooks and podcasts are good bedtime content and I can operate the Home Mini completely hands-free. Using a phone wouldn't be as convenient for me, as the closest thing I have to a bed stand to set my phone to is not within arm’s reach.


The commands to operate audiobooks and podcasts are few and very simple, which contributes to a smooth experience.

How to listen to audiobooks I began getting audiobooks only recently. I buy them at Google Play Books and the Home Mini accesses the books from there. Although there are several commands to control audiobook playback, I use only a couple to start listening to an audiobook from where I left off and end a reading session:
“OK Google, read Book Title”“OK Google, read my book” for the most recent one“OK Google, stop”
How to listen to podcasts The selection of podca…

How to Work Offline With a Chromebook

My daily driver on the desktop is a Chromebox.

Although I have also a Chromebook, my mobility needs are pretty limited and I don’t move the device much, not even across rooms. Therefore, since I have an excellent Internet connection and good Wi-Fi at home, I virtually never use Chrome OS offline.

But I found JR Raphael’s guide to using a Chromebook offline useful and I encourage you to read it, especially because working offline with Chrome OS devices is a little known, often misunderstood feature. The key insight is working offline with a Chromebook requires some preliminary steps:

configuring Google’s web apps for offline usebookmarking the web apps you needdownloading the Google Drive files you plan to work on
The guide provides all the details and a few more tips, for example for finding Android or Linux replacements for web apps that, like Google Calendar, don’t provide offline support.

Simulate Eclipses With Eclipse Calculator 2 for Android

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Eclipse Calculator 2 is the best Android app for eclipses and planetary transits.

It calculates and simulates solar and lunar eclipses as well as transits of Mercury and Venus across the Sun. It’s the best because it provides all the information to visualize the circumstances of the events and plan the observations. In addition, it presents this information through highly effective charts, data, and maps.


You start by quickly searching for the events you’re interested in, such as by type or observing location, and drilling down to the ones you want to know more about.

Then the app summarizes all sorts of details and information. For a total solar eclipse, for example, you get a map of the lunar shadow on the Earth, a view of the solar disk, a map of the sky with the visible stars, and even the lunar limb profile with Baily’s beads. Letting time run or interactively adjusting it shows how the event changes.

If you think like an astronomer, the app’s well designed user interface feels i…

StreamYard as an Alternative to Hangouts on Air: First Impressions

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Google discontinued Hangouts on Air on August 1, 2019. The StreamYard video streaming platform is the best replacement I found among the alternatives. I'm going to tell how I tested StreamYard in a demanding situation and what I've learned.

StreamYard can livestream video feeds from up to 6 participants and save a recording to YouTube or other video platforms. It works fully in the cloud, a huge plus for a Chrome OS user like me. And it’s even better than Hangouts on Air as it has additional useful features such as showing user comments in the YouTube chat of a livestream and banners, i.e. text cards. It also provides a few preset layouts for arranging on the screen the camera feeds of the participants.

A key feature is the ability to screenshare a desktop window or browser tab as well as any audio playing there. This allows, for example, to stream a YouTube video along with its soundtrack.

The product has a free tier that overlays StreamYard’s logo in livestreams and misses a…