02 May 2015

Essential Apps and Utilities for your Mac

Whether you are a new Mac user or seasoned veteran looking to do more, here’s a collection of essential Mac apps & utilities that you must download on your computer. These apps, most of them are free and created by third-party developers, will help you get more productive and do things that are otherwise not possible on your Mac.

Best Mac Apps and Utilities

The story, Essential Apps and Utilities for your Mac, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 01/05/2015 under Apple Mac, Software.

01 May 2015

Google Flights Uses Material Design

Google Flights, one of the most underrated Google services, has a new interface powered by Material Design. There's a new hamburger-style menu that lets you quickly find your saved flights, explore a clever map with potential destinations, change currency and language.

Google shows the best flights at the top of the list of results. "We chose these itineraries to give you the best trade-off between price, duration, number of stops, and sometimes other factors such as amenities and baggage fees," informs Google.

This video from 2014 shows the old interface:

{ Thanks, Emanuele Bartolomucci. }

29 April 2015

Classic Google Maps, Replaced by Lite Mode

If you're using the new Google Maps for desktop and you're trying to switch to the old version, Google now sends you to Google Maps Lite Mode. "To make Maps load faster, you can use a version of Google Maps called Lite mode. In Lite mode, some features are turned off so that Maps can run faster." Some examples of missing features: 3D imagery and Earth view, showing your computer's location, setting home and work, searching nearby, measuring distances, coordinates, draggable routes, embedding maps, My Maps integration.

If you're in Lite mode, you'll see a box in the bottom left with a lightning bolt and this message: "You're in Lite mode." You can click: "Switch back to full Maps" if your browser supports it.

The Lite interface uses a hamburger-style menu, just like the mobile apps.

For now, the old Google Maps is still available if you use this link: www.google.com/lochp, but there's a message which says that "this version of Google Maps is updating soon".

26 April 2015

Stats for Chrome's Compression Proxy

A few Google engineers wrote an interesting paper about Flywheel, Google Chrome's data compression proxy. The paper only talks about the data compression feature from Chrome for Android and iOS and offers a lot of stats.

Flywheel focuses on the mobile web because mobile devices "are fast becoming the dominant mode of Internet access", while "web content is still predominantly designed for desktop browsers" and mobile data is expensive. Google's proxy compresses web content by 58% on average and relies on the SPDY protocol and the WebP image compression formats, which are used by a small percentage of the sites (0.8% of the images use WebP and 0.9% of the sites use SPDY). The most significant data reduction comes from image transcoding, which decreases the sizes of the images by 66.4%, on average.

Data compression is disabled by default and only 9% of the mobile Chrome users enabled it. "Segmented by access network, 78% of page loads are transferred via WiFi, 11% via 3G, 9% via 4G/LTE, and 1% via 2G." Flywheel is not enabled for HTTPS pages and for incognito tabs and it's interesting to notice that only 37% of the bytes downloaded by Chrome users who enabled the proxy are received from Flywheel, while 50% of the total received bytes are from HTTPS and 13% of the bytes are from incognito mode, bypassed URLs and protocols other than HTTP/HTTPS. For example, the proxy bypasses audio/video files and large file downloads.

"For most users and most page loads, Flywheel increases page load time. For the majority of page loads, the increase is modest: the median value increases by 6%. Flywheel improves page load time only when pages are large and users are close to a Google data center."

{ via Hacker News }

Your Mobile Phone can Detect Earthquakes

Was it just you or did the ground really shake? Your iPhone, iPad and most newer mobile phones can work as basic seismometers, the same instrument that is used to measure the magnitude of earthquakes and volcanoes. You don’t need to install any apps, just the built-in web browser would suffice.

OK, try this. Launch Google Chrome or the Safari browser on your mobile phone (or tablet) and then open this page. You should see a continuously moving waveform but if you slightly shake or tilt your mobile device,  simulating seismic activity, the graph will capture these movements in real-time much like a seismograph.

The seismic intensity will vary depending on how vigorously (or slowly) you are shaking the phone (see the following screenshot) and will also change based on the orientation of the device. And you’ll be surprised to learn that this basic seismograph is written using simple JavaScript.

earthquake seismograph

Most newer mobile devices have built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes and as you move the physical hardware, the changes in the orientation of the device and acceleration are detected by the browser which are then mapped into the seismograph.

The orientation and motion data are in turn captured by the HTML5 DeviceOrientation and DeviceMotion events of the browser. This works mostly on mobile devices but if you are using Google Chrome on the desktop, you can turn on the Accelerator option under Sensors inside Chrome Dev Tools to simulate motion.

Update: The code was originally published on isthisanearthquake.com in 2011 but the domain is no longer available. A mirror is located on ctrlq.org.

The story, Your Mobile Phone can Detect Earthquakes, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 25/04/2015 under JavaScript, Internet.