A beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation, and the best apps for learning

“Mindfulness” is probably a word you’ve heard a lot of lately. It gets thrown around as a synonym for words like attention and concentration, often as a command or suggestion: “be mindful of the step,” or “be mindful of others’ emotions.” It’s also possible you’ve heard it said by those in the self-help crowds, often dressed in flowery, poetic cushioning. But meditation and mindfulness can have very real, measurable effects on your well being. That said, the practice is more than simply sitting calmly.

More: The man behind Def Jam Records wants you to relax, and has made a meditation app to help

What, exactly, is “mindfulness?”

Mindfulness is, essentially, being aware of your body and your mind; being aware of thoughts and emotions as they pass through your head, and sensations that occur in your body. In modern life, it’s easy to get lost in thought, as we often get distracted and become busy at almost all hours of the day. This makes it hard to recognize that subtle back pain or twinge of irritability, making it easier to act on impulse rather than calmly respond to it. It also makes us less likely to recognize our surroundings or positive emotions, and thus, we miss out on them. So how to do we fix this, and increase our mindfulness? The answer is meditation.

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Mindfulness Meditation is a form of meditation that incorporates aspects from Buddhist meditation styles, like Vipassana and Zazen, but is presented in basic terms divested of any religious or overtly spiritual/metaphysical vestiges and vocabulary. Traditionally, meditation was thought of as a way to “liberate” oneself of the cycles of life and rebirth, and reach enlightenment, or Nirvana. However, mindfulness meditation focuses purely on the benefits of meditation on your brain and body, and by extension, your relationships and daily life. There are many benefits, all backed up by science. Lots of science, in fact. Lower blood pressure, better focus and creativity, and a deeper sense of compassion and empathy are all within reach.

So what’s the best way to begin meditating? Believe it or not, but you can meditate anywhere, at any time, without a monastery. Here’s how:

  • Find a quiet spot, sit comfortably but with your back straight, and breathe.
  • Feel your breath going in and out. Make note of it as it does, or count each breath up to 10 before starting over.
  • Your mind will wander and be busy, but don’t fret. When you notice this, just gently bring your attention back to the breath.

That’s it — no altered states of mind, levitation, or communing with the universe. Simply breathe, and reset your attention when you notice your mind has wandered.

Ironically, by embracing one of the most egregious distractions we possess — our smartphones — we unlock the potential for more effective meditation. These seven apps will help you begin meditating, learn to stick to it, and practice. Furthermore, they’re all light on (or entirely devoid of) any references to Buddhism or new-age spirituality, and just focus on the facts. Within days, you’ll begin to notice the positive changes slowly taking place.

Google tests Google Hire, its own jobs tool

Get ready for Google Hire.
Get ready for Google Hire.

Image: justin sullivan/Getty Images

Google’s own version of LinkedIn — or maybe Greenhouse? or Jobvite? — is almost here. 

The tech company debuted a new sign-in page for Google Hire, an as-yet-unspecified service that’s part of the jobs/career space. 

According to a report in Axios, the program will be a job applicant tracking system, most similar to Greenhouse and Lever. Employers will reportedly be able to use the service to post job listings and then accept and manage applications. 

Google Hire.

Google Hire.

Image: screenshot/google

Google acquired Bebop, a startup focused on productivity and enterprise tools, in 2015. Google Hire is under the purview of Bebop and its founder Diane Greene, who now runs Google’s enterprise and cloud division. 

The main screen of Google Hire is visible to anyone, but the rest is hidden from public view for the moment. Google declined to comment on the program to Mashable

Get ready for job listings, on Google. 

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You can bob and weave with PiQ and Everlast’s innovative boxing wearable

Why it matters to you

After unveiling a partnership with Everlast at CES 2017, fitness tracking innovator PiQ announced its intelligent wearable geared toward boxers.

Artificial intelligence has been making its way into sports wearables thanks to PiQ Sport Intelligence. Now it has teamed with Everlast, the world leader in boxing gear, to bring its technology to boxing. Three months after making its debut at CES 2017, PiQ has announced the availability of the PiQ Robot, heralded as “the first wearable specifically designed for Core boxing and Fitness boxing.” If you’re in the U.S. or in Europe, you can now grab the new product for $99 on everlast.com, piq.com, and in various retail locations.

Just like other PiQ devices, the wearable (and associated app) will allow athletes to analyze and implement the optimal form in real time.

Using the PiQ Robot device, boxers can tap into the hive mind of thousands of boxers and millions of motions. The motion-capture algorithm measures and tracks each and every movement of every user, constantly updating the optimal form. Microscopic variations in boxing movements are picked up by the device, making it ideal for workouts and training.

“Athletes in other sports have been using data to train smarter for years,” says Chris Zoller, director of marketing and design for Everlast. “We’re excited to work with PiQ to bring wearable technology to the sport of boxing. The PiQ platform has the ability to provide true measurable training insight, something we feel will help boxers perform their best.”

The benefits are made even more clear when boxers connect the PiQ Robot to their smartphone. They can see the strength and speed of their punches, and determine their strength levels. These factors can then be leveraged in order to improve performance.

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To secure the PiQ Robot to a boxer’s hand, Everlast has created a strap that wraps around the wrist to ensure a secure fit. Better yet, the device and the strap are designed to fit perfectly underneath a pair of boxing gloves. This way, they don’t impact performance negatively.

Article originally published in January. Updated on 4-13-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of PiQ and Everlast availability in the U.S. and Europe. 

Will Amazon Go Reinvent Retail?

Every time I walk into a retail store, I complain. I grumble to my wife about the same pet peeve every time we go shopping.

After walking the aisles and filling the basket, you then must go through the most inefficient checkout process. First you unload everything in your basket, then it’s rung up, then you put the items in bags that go back into your basket before you can walk out of the store. There must be a better way. Amazon Go suggests there is.

Shouldn’t it be easy in today’s world, with today’s technology, to cut through the mess and reinvent this process? Yes — and that’s what Amazon wants to do with its new retail stores. It wants to reinvent retail the way it reinvented other industries.

Today, Amazon has a few retail bookstores, and it intends to break into other retail sectors. Due to some hiccups, the rollout of the Amazon Go stores seems to be on hold — but the need is real, and I expect Amazon to figure out the problems and open them sooner rather than later.

Startup Issues

What if you could walk the aisles of a store and put the items you want to purchase in the bags in your basket, and then when you are done, simply walk out the door to your car? Your smartphone app would let you get charged for your purchases automatically. Your items would be scanned as you collected them. The whole process would be easy.

That’s the thought, anyway. It seems this should be easy to accomplish with today’s technologies, but apparently it’s not. Amazon is having some trouble at this early stage. When its stores are ready for prime time, it will be interesting to see whether they can enter the retail arena and transform it the same way it transformed online commerce.

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Skipping the Checkout Line

Sam’s Club has its own app. The first time I tried it, I got miserable results. I tried to scan a package of batteries and walk out, bypassing the cashier. I couldn’t do it. It kept trying to get me to place the order as if I were at home and schedule when to pick the item up later in the day. Since I was standing in Sam’s Club, that obviously made no sense.

Confused, I walked up to the customer service counter and asked for help. All I wanted was for someone to explain what I was doing wrong. The staff tried and couldn’t figure it out either. I asked several different Sam’s Club workers and got the same response — a blank stare.

I tried again a few days later, and it was a success. The problem with the first attempt was that I was using the wrong app. Apparently, I had installed two Sam’s Club apps, and when I used the search command, it chose the wrong one.

So, technology can make or break a company’s image in the mind of the customer.

Walmart’s Problem and Solution

Walmart is hurting itself by allowing other companies to sell on its Walmart.com website, but not telling its customers that different rules for returns or exchanges might apply. This mistake costs some customers’ money and sours their experience, reducing the Walmart brand value in their eyes.

Walmart’s problem is not the consequence of a deliberate strategy. The company didn’t try to take me for a ride, even though that’s what happened. I believe it wanted its additional service to work well. However, when a company tries something new and it goes wrong, it’s important to reach out to the customer. Apologize. Make amends. Save the brand’s value.

I have heard nothing from Walmart, however, and that’s the real Walmart problem.

No matter its size, a retailer must be very careful not to damage its own brand when expanding into new areas the way Walmart has been doing. Walmart has been shooting itself in the foot. If I ever step on someone’s toe, I automatically say, “sorry.” Walmart should do the same. It hasn’t, and that attitude will hurt its brand value in the long term.

All that said, we are seeing a number of players in the retail sector trying to break the mold and come up with a new model. Amazon Go is not the only innovative effort. There are quite a few retailers playing in this space to one extent or another. I like the idea of finding new ways to pay with the smartphone.

Tread Carefully

I like paying with an app and then walking out of a QT or Racetrack gas station. However, there are differences between their approaches

With QT, customers can purchase something without touching the germ-filled keypad. With Racetrack, customers still need to punch buttons on a dirty screen. That’s one important reason customers pass Racetrack and go to QT. Little things like this can build or tear down brand value in a customer’s mind. That’s why I believe all retailers will move to the best, fastest, cleanest and easiest solutions for the customer.

Over time, retailers will learn. All of today’s problems will be fixed — but we are still in the early days. I expect to see this new way of retailing become the norm, when the companies involved finally figure it out.

Amazon is the king of good customer care. It does things right. It goes above and beyond. It exceeds customer expectations most of the time. This is key to growth and success in the long and short term. Walmart and Racetrack should pay more attention to and learn from Amazon, don’t you think?

Amazon has reinvented industry after industry, starting with the book store business and expanding to everything else. Not all of its initiatives have been a success — remember the Fire Phone disaster? Still, Amazon does have a good track record — and success to Amazon means upending and reinventing industry after industry.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent
analyst, consultant and speaker.
Email Jeff.

Bose’s new Revolve Bluetooth speakers look great and play sound in every direction

Bose has launched a pair of new Bluetooth speakers, the SoundLink Revolve ($199) and Revolve+ ($299). They both feature aluminum, cylindrical designs and — like the popular UE Boom line — play 360-degree, omnidirectional audio. Bose is really promising a great listening experience from these; the company says the Revolve+ in particular is the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker it has ever produced. The SoundLink Mini II already offered some of the best sound quality from a portable Bluetooth speaker, so if this tops that, it should be a strong performer. Each comes in black or silver. I think they look mostly good, but also like a weird hybrid of Google Home and a metal water bottle.

The main differences between the two speakers are size and battery life. The Revolve measures around 6 inches tall; the Revolve+ is 7.2 inches with a larger diameter and includes a non-removable fabric handle for easy carrying. Bose says those bigger dimensions let the Revolve+ generate “higher-volume, more room-filling sound than SoundLink Revolve.” The regular Revolve can run for up to 12 hours, whereas the plus version extends that to 16. Two speakers can be joined wirelessly for a wider stereo soundstage.

There’s a microphone built in, and the button with three dots can trigger Siri or Google Assistant.

Both are water resistant (IPX4), so they should keep playing just fine in the rain. There’s a microphone built in, which you can use for speakerphone calls or after hitting the dedicated “multi-function button” that will either trigger Siri or Google Assistant depending on what kind of phone you’ve got. Speaking of which, you can connect to two devices simultaneously, and the Revolve remembers the last eight devices it’s been paired with. There’s also NFC to further speed up pairing for Android users. There’s no Alexa here, obviously, but Bose’s FAQ is quick to remind people that you can easily combine the Revolve with an Echo Dot.

Bose includes a 3.5mm auxiliary jack if you prefer to use either speaker wired, and the speaker charges either via MicroUSB (not USB Type-C, unfortunately) or a sold-separately charging dock. Maybe the most “huh!” thing about these speakers is that they’ve got a tripod thread on the bottom. Bose is already shipping the Revolve and Revolve+ right now, so we’re hoping to get our hands on them very soon. It does feel like a lot of money for a Bluetooth speaker, especially when Ultimate Ears is still targeting new products at that under-$100 price point.

Bob and weave: PiQ and Everlast’s innovative boxing wearable now available for purchase

Why it matters to you

After unveiling a partnership with Everlast at CES 2017, fitness tracking innovator PiQ announced its intelligent wearable geared toward boxers.

Artificial intelligence has been making its way into sports wearables thanks to PiQ Sport Intelligence. Now it has teamed with Everlast, the world leader in boxing gear, to bring its technology to boxing. Three months after making its debut at CES 2017, PiQ has announced the availability of the PiQ Robot, heralded as “the first wearable specifically designed for Core boxing and Fitness boxing.” If you’re in the U.S. or in Europe, you can now grab the new product for $99 on everlast.com, piq.com, and in various retail locations.

Just like other PiQ devices, the wearable (and associated app) will allow athletes to analyze and implement the optimal form in real time.

Using the PiQ Robot device, boxers can tap into the hive mind of thousands of boxers and millions of motions. The motion-capture algorithm measures and tracks each and every movement of every user, constantly updating the optimal form. Microscopic variations in boxing movements are picked up by the device, making it ideal for workouts and training.

“Athletes in other sports have been using data to train smarter for years,” says Chris Zoller, director of marketing and design for Everlast. “We’re excited to work with PiQ to bring wearable technology to the sport of boxing. The PiQ platform has the ability to provide true measurable training insight, something we feel will help boxers perform their best.”

The benefits are made even more clear when boxers connect the PiQ Robot to their smartphone. They can see the strength and speed of their punches, and determine their strength levels. These factors can then be leveraged in order to improve performance.

[embedded content]

To secure the PiQ Robot to a boxer’s hand, Everlast has created a strap that wraps around the wrist to ensure a secure fit. Better yet, the device and the strap are designed to fit perfectly underneath a pair of boxing gloves. This way, they don’t impact performance negatively.

Article originally published in January. Updated on 4-13-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of PiQ and Everlast availability in the U.S. and Europe. 

7 things we learned from today’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi panel

We’re just 8 months away from the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but Disney and Lucasfilm had released absolutely nothing about the upcoming film — until today. During the highlight panel of Star Wars Celebration, writer-director Rian Johnson, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and a selection of the film’s cast took the stage to discuss what is in store for audiences in the continuing adventure of Luke Skywalker and Rey… well, Rey Somebody.

There was a lot to discuss — including the new trailer — and we’ve put together the most essential moments and revelations from today’s panel. If you’re looking for your Last Jedi Cliff’s Notes, you’ve come to the right place.

  Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

Luke may not live up to expectations

While Daisy Ridley wouldn’t reveal any spoilers about The Last Jedi, she did state that the film will dive deeper into Rey’s story. It’s obvious from the way The Force Awakens ended that Rey has certain expectations as to what she’s going to get from Luke. Ridley explained. However, she cautioned that meeting one’s hero isn’t always a positive experience. They can disappoint, she said, lending credence to the idea that Luke may not be up to the challenge of training Rey after losing control of his burgeoning Jedi students.

The comments become even clearer in the context of the new trailer, which ends with Luke standing at a cave entrance, saying flat-out: “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

  Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

BB-8 is the Buster Keaton of The Last Jedi

The breakout character of Force Awakens for many was the new droid, BB-8, and it’s clear that audiences will be getting as much of him as possible in The Last Jedi. Johnson said that the best advice he got before starting the project was from J.J. Abrams’ editors, who told him that you can never have enough BB-8 — and that they were right. In fact, Johnson described BB-8 as “the Buster Keaton of this movie,” promising many comedic flourishes and beats throughout the film.

There’s a new heroine on the scene

Most of the people at the panel today were ones we’d already seen: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Mark Hamill. But Johnson seemed perhaps most excited to introduce an actor that’s entirely new to the franchise: Kelly Marie Tran. She plays Rose, a maintenance worker for the Resistance that finds herself wrapped up in a whirlwind adventure. Johnson described how the earlier films had been so resonant because they let audiences understand what it would be like to be swept into a world and story larger than themselves, and that’s the exact challenge Rose ends up facing.

As for Kelly Marie Tran herself, she struck a strikingly earnest tone, describing the responsibility she felt becoming part of the series. “It’s incredible,” she explained. “So many people tell you what this is going to feel like, and you just hear so much excitement and so much love for this thing, and you just want to do it justice.”

Johnson first bonded with Carrie Fisher as a writer

As most things have at Celebration, the discussion today turned towards Carrie Fisher. “I love her, man,” Johnson told the crowd, saying that he first bonded with her as a writer. He described how he went to her house while he was getting the script in shape, and sat on her bed while they would read over pages and discuss the various scenes. At the end of hours of conversation, they’d sometimes end up with just a few words, but those words would distill the meaning of the chats they’d had. And like so many others, he noted Fisher’s incredible sense of humor.

We probably already know the opening shot

Okay, this one is a bit of inference, but it seems like a pretty safe bet. We’ve already learned that The Last Jedi will pick up almost exactly where The Force Awakens ended, which seemed a little odd given that the Star Wars films all open with an iconic shot of a field of stars. In the disturbing new trailer, we likely see exactly how Johnson is solving that problem. We see what appears to be a field of stars… but is slowly revealed to be ground, upon which a strained Rey has placed her hand for support.

Given that discussion in the trailer of visualizing The Force — and of light and darkness — the star field could in fact by Rey’s visualization of The Force, with different points of light peeking out from the darkness.

  Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

The First Order isn’t wasting any time

While Starkiller Base was destroyed at the end of The Force Awakens, the weapon had already done extensive damage by destroying the capital of the Republic. According to Johnson, that’s led to an incredible amount of chaos in the galaxy, and the First Order is wasting no time in jumping in to take advantage. “Very aggressively,” Johnson said, “not sitting on their hands. They’re making some big moves at the start of the film.”

In some of the ancillary novels, it was made clear that General Leia had been far more concerned about the threat of the First Order than the Republic was — it was why she’d started the Resistance in the first place. With the Republic so unconcerned with the threat that Kylo Ren, Snoke, and General Hux presented, odds are they were not prepared to deal with the cataclysmic destruction Starkiller Base unleashed.

  Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

Finn may not be a good guy after all

John Boyega was on hand to discuss his character, and while Finn was hurt pretty badly by Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, he reassured the audience that the character would be back. However, he said Finn was facing a unique challenge: understanding where he fit in the galaxy. Boyega took careful pains to state that Finn had to decide whether he wanted to stay with the Resistance, or run away from the First Order. It’s a dilemma that would seem unimaginable after watching the last film, but it infers that Johnson’s take will be a much more morally complex Star Wars than we’ve seen before.

Google’s parental control software Family Link hits iOS


In March, Google introduced its own parental control software for parents of kids with Android devices called Family Link – but there was a bit of a catch. In order for the system to work, it required that both parent and child use Android. That has now changed, as the parents’ app for configuring and monitoring the child’s device usage has just arrived on iOS devices.

That means mom or dad can be an iPhone user, but still manage their child’s screen time, daily usage limits, set “bedtimes” and more, for their kids who use Android.

This launch expands the reach of Family Link dramatically, given that iOS has grown to capture 42 percent of the smartphone market here in the U.S., where Family Link is currently available.

The parental control platform is still in testing. When Google unveiled the software last month, it explained that parents would first have to request an invite to join the program. The idea is that Google wants to first work out the kinks and get feedback from early adopters before making Family Link more broadly available.

As for the software itself, Family Link lets parents set some basic limits on how their child can use their Android phone. It offers tools that allow parents to either block or approve app downloads – similar to the iCloud Family Sharing “Ask” feature on Apple devices – or block apps that are already installed.

In addition, parents can track how much time kids are spending in which apps through weekly and monthly activity reports, remotely lock the child’s device on a set schedule (device “bedtimes”), and configure daily screen time limits.

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The iOS version, released on Thursday, doesn’t appear to have any new features compared with its Android counterpart – it simply ports the parental control app to Apple’s platform.

There are a few other caveats to be aware of if you want to try Family Link, however. It still requires the child has an Android device running Nougat (7.0) or higher, or has one of a handful of supported Marshmallow devices. (A list of those is available on the Family Link FAQ page.)

Of course, you should also be aware that this is an early preview of the software, and there could still be bugs to contend with here.

Family Link for iOS works on devices running iOS 9 or higher and is a free download on the App Store. 

T-Mobile is shipping the Galaxy S8 early just like it did with the S7

T-Mobile is already shipping Samsung Galaxy S8 orders, as first spotted by Phandroid and Android Forums. The company already said the S8 and S8 Plus would arrive by April 19th — two days ahead of other retailers — but it’s possible they now could arrive even sooner. Easter might mess with deliveries slightly, but still, the shipments are imminent. The company shipped the Galaxy S7 early, too.

T-Mobile’s selling the regular S8 for $750, or $30 / per month for two years. As a reminder, the S8 and S8 Plus won’t be in stores until April 21st, including at T-Mobile. You’ll be able to find it at Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and Best Buy.

Here’s yet another way Google Photos is better than Apple Photos

Image: pete pachal/mashable

Google Photos continues to blow away the competition.

The two-year-old service is easily the best free way to back up and store all of your photos and videos. But what’s better than all the storage you want (limited to 16 megapixels for photos and 1080p resolution for videos, of course) are Google’s impressive software enhancements.

Over the years, Google’s added many advanced features to improve your photos using its magical algorithms. And now, the app can fix shaky videos.

As discovered by Android Police, the latest version of Google Photos (2.13) for Android has a new video stabilization feature that’ll help correct wobbly footage and hopefully make it more watchable.

It’s not going to perform miracles on all your videos, but it does look mighty impressive when it works:

Video with Google Photos video stabilization (left) vs. original video without video stabilization.

Video with Google Photos video stabilization (left) vs. original video without video stabilization.

Nothing’s going to beat a steady stance and hardware optical image stabilization (either built into your phone or camera, or enhanced with a gimbal), but it’s hard to deny that Google’s doing some insane stuff with software. 

What’s unclear is if the software video stabilization is similar to the electronic video stabilization Google uses to fix shaky videos on the Pixel and Pixel XL.

If you’ve got videos that need some fixing, update your Google Photos app to the latest version, and then select a video. Tap on the pencil “edit” icon and then tap “stabilize.” Stabilization processing time will vary depending on the length of your video. Sadly, there’s no way to select a specific section of your video to stabilize. It’s all or nothing.

Image: screenshot: raymond wong/mashable

Video stabilization in Google Photos is Android-only for now, so if you’re looking to stabilize some videos on iOS, you’re out of luck. You can, however, upload your videos to Google Photos from your iOS device, and then use an Android device with the updated Google Photos app to access and stabilize uploaded videos. 

This feature does make me wonder if Apple’s working on anything similar. Apple’s own Photos app for iOS, Mac, and iCloud pales in comparison when it comes to ways to easily fix photos and videos without too much effort. Hot hardware will always be Apple’s forte, but smarter software is where it needs to put more effort into.

WWDC is in a few months, so we may get a glimpse of some new Photos features then. But for now, Google Photos remains superior to Apple Photos in every way. If you’re not using it, you really should.

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