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.

WATCH: iPhone 8 rumors include a ‘Smart Connector’ for AR headset

Apple just received a permit to test self-driving cars in California

A new name just showed up on California’s growing list of companies allowed to test autonomous vehicles in the state: Apple.

To date, the tech giant has been infuriatingly secretive about it’s efforts to build a self-driving car, code named Project Titan. Apple has been working on Project Titan for several years, but has never formally acknowledged it. Lately, the autonomous car project seems to be in flux. Recent reporting suggests that the company is no longer attempting to build its own autonomous, electric car to compete with companies like Tesla, but is instead focused on developing self-driving software it can deploy in partnership with existing carmakers.

Now that it has its permit, the company appears poised to begin testing its software on public roads in California. A company source told Bloomberg that autonomous vehicle testing would begin “soon,” but declined to specify any further.

According to the California DMV, Apple has three vehicles registered under the autonomous driving permit, all of which are 2015 Lexus RX crossovers. In addition, Apple has six drivers permitted to operate the vehicles. In the early days of its self-driving program, Google used Lexus SUVs outfitted with cameras and laser sensors.

Late last year, Apple submitted a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in which it said that it was “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.” At the time, it was seen as the strongest hint that Apple was still committed to self-driving technology.

Lately, California is crawling with self-driving cars. Everyone from Uber to Waymo (a spinoff of Google) to General Motors has been testing their autonomous cars in the Golden State.

California requires companies that want to test autonomous vehicles on the roads to register for an autonomous driving permit. As part of this program, companies are also required to report their disengagement rates to the DMV, which then makes those numbers public. This requirement was likely a factor in Uber’s high-profile refusal to obtain an autonomous permit, resulting in the DMV revoking the ride-hail company’s vehicle registration for its self-driving cars. The ride-hailing company has since acquiesced and signed up for the permit.

Whether Apple is actively testing autonomous vehicles, though, remains to be seen. Many companies sign up for the permit, but report no miles driven. We’ll know more about Apple’s secretive efforts after the company files its first report.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment about the permit, referring instead to the company’s statement from December when it submitted its letter to the federal government. That statement read, “We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems. There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry.”

Here’s the teaser poster for The Last Jedi

Back in January, we learned the title of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and got a spiffy, retro-looking poster to boot. Now, at Star Wars Celebration, we’ve got a new poster to go along with it.

The stark image of a lightsaber shooting up into the sky also bears a certain resemblance to the original teaser poster for Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on December 15th

Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s first trailer is here

Our first look at The Last Jedi has arrived. Today at Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm debuted the trailer for for the long-awaited sequel to The Force Awakens.

There’s a lot to take in from this brief teaser. Much of the action is set on Ahch-To, the planet that Rey discovered Luke on at the end of the previous film, and it appears that she’s spending some time there training. At the end, Luke has a foreboding message: “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

In addition to Rey and Luke, there are glimpses of Finn in a pod (presumably still healing from his wounds), Poe Dameron running to his fighter, which is caught in an explosion, and a couple of big battles: one on the ground against what looks like First Order Walkers, and a dogfight between X-Wings and TIE fighters.

The trailer is our first look at The Last Jedi, and it looks like it’s picking up from The Force Awakens with just as much energy and action, teasing what looks like some game-changing developments with one of the franchises’s fundamental elements: The Force and Jedi themselves. We’ll find out on December 15th.

Navy tells sailors to stop vaping at sea

The Navy is banning all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices from its aircraft, ships, boats, and submarines after a string of incidents caused physical injuries to sailors. The Naval Safety Center reports that at least 15 “mishaps” occurred between October 2015 and June 2016, which resulted in sailors’ first- and second-degree burns and facial disfiguration from e-cigarette battery explosions.

“Nine of 15 reported incidents described the failure mechanism as explosive… Two battery explosions occurred with the electronic cigarette in the service member’s mouth resulting in facial and dental injuries,” The Naval Safety Center wrote in a memo last August, following an investigation that recommended a full ban of vaporizer devices on Navy property by the US Fleet Forces. “These devices pose a significant and unacceptable risk to Navy personnel, facilities, submarines, ships, vessels and aircraft.”

The US Department of Transportation similarly banned vaporizers from aircrafts last year, though it did so to prevent passengers from “unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes.”

The Navy’s ban on e-cigarettes will begin on May 14 and is expected to remain in effect until a final determination on the policy can be made. Sailors who are currently deployed will be asked to remove batteries from their e-cigarette devices and store them in non-conductive containers. Use of such devices will be allowed on shore at designated smoking areas.

Own an Aga oven? Hackers can turn it on and off, security experts say

Why it matters to you

Smart home devices may make your life easier, but when they are vulnerable to being hacked, they can be quite the headache and dangerous.

Even if you always remember to turn your oven off before you leave the house, it may not stay that way. That is, if you own an Aga oven, a smart appliance that can be controlled by a smartphone app. In the latest security vulnerability to be found in the Internet of Things, security researchers at Pen Test Partners discovered that hackers could gain control of your oven, turning it on and off at will.

Security expert Ken Munro was considering upgrading his own oven range to a connected version from Aga when he discovered the issue. The ovens, which have been around since 2012, apparently can be remotely accessed, and then turned off and on without their owners’ knowledge. “I wanted to know more about its security before spending extra on this option,” Munro told The Telegraph. “We found that even Agas can be hacked. Seriously.”

So what is the issue? Apparently, it all lies in the app. While most connected devices communicate with one another and their companion apps by way of the internet, Aga instead sends text messages directly to the ovens (there is a SIM card embedded in the appliances). That means that when you want to turn your oven on, you literally text it.

While this may sound cool, it is not all that secure, Munro found. In fact, the Telegraph reported that the system “can easily be hijacked, letting hackers send messages to Agas not belonging to them in order to turn them on or off.” Because Aga neither encrypts or verifies the communications between its app and its ovens, it would be relatively easy (Munro did it) to discover sent messages. These messages could then be mimicked by someone with “nefarious intentions.” Given that the “Total Control” Aga ovens will set you back around $12,500, this certainly seems like a problem that absolutely should not be happening.

Munro claims that he attempted to tell Aga of the problem, but that the company has not responded to his requests, and even blocked him on Twitter. “Come on Aga, sort it out. This isn’t acceptable,” he said. But the company told the Telegraph it is taking a closer look at its systems. “We take such issues seriously and have raised them immediately with our service providers so that we can answer in detail the points raised,” a company spokesperson said.

So if you’re an Aga owner, be careful. You never know who is controlling your oven.

Being Fast and Furious means causing as much damage as superhumanly possible

Since the debut of The Fast and the Furious in 2001, the film franchise has evolved from its humble street-racing beginnings to… well, basically a series about car-driving superheroes. Dom and his crew haven’t just mastered the “10 and 2” stance. They’ve learned how to weaponize vehicles and thwart the basic laws of gravity and physics.

The Fate of the Furious opens in theaters today, continuing a legacy of pretty, fast things going boom. The total carnage hasn’t been worked out on paper yet, but the destruction levels are insanely high. In March, Gap Insurance calculated how much damage the F+F gang has caused over the course of the previous seven movies. It’s more than $500 million, with an alarming spike following 2011’s Fast Five.

Over the course of seven movies, 169 “regular” cars have been damaged onscreen, while 142 have been destroyed outright. There’s property damage here too, with 53 buildings in need of repairs, and 31 destroyed outright. Gap Insurance has many more charts with fun statistics, but as of Furious 7, the characters’ premiums have to be pretty high.

Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is the series’ single most destructive character, with more than $180 million in damages all on his own. But together, Dom and his band of heroes have caused the most damage throughout the series.

In any other scenario, a person racking up this much in damage costs would be a bad driver. For the Fast and the Furious crew, it’s just a testament to how good they are at their jobs. How else do you battle a tank, take down a helicopter, or successfully drive out of a burning airplane? And let’s not forget my personal favorite: That time Dom went airborne through not one, but two neighboring buildings with a Lykan Hypersport. Spoiler alert: The car didn’t make it.

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HTC’s One X10 is official, but only in Russia

HTC has officially announced the One X10 — in Russia, that is. The news comes from AndroidCentral, and as rumored, the new mid-range phone’s standout feature is a giant, 4000 mAh battery that the company claims will get you through almost two full days of use on a single charge. With a low-resolution screen paired to that massive battery, that claim seems totally reasonable, although a final judgement will have to wait until the One X10 makes its way to users.

Aside from the battery, the rest of the phone is pretty much what you’d expect from a mid-range Android phone in 2017: 5.5-inch 1080p screen, a MediaTek Helio P10 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The cameras are a 16-megapixel rear shooter and an 8-megapixel front facing camera with a wide angle lens for selfies. HTC has given the One X10 a few more premium features, though, including a a metal body and fingerprint sensor. It’s not a particularly flashy phone when it comes to specs or design, but the battery life — if accurate — could be enough of a differentiator to make it stand out.

The One X10 has curiously only been announced on HTC’s Russian site for 19,990 rubles (roughly $355), but there’s been no word yet if the phone will see a wider release.

Facebook is stepping up efforts to automatically identify fake accounts and Likes

Facebook is increasing its efforts to cut down on spam and improve security. Today, the company announced that it has put an end to a spam operation that generated thousands of fake Likes on publisher’s pages. Facebook says it’s been fighting the operation for six months as part of a wider crackdown on fake accounts.

According to Facebook, the fake Likes are the result of a campaign to create fraudulent accounts that would Like popular pages, through which the fake accounts could then attempt to make friends to spam. Facebook says it’s identified and removed the fake accounts and Likes, which it says will result in “99 percent of impacted Pages with more than 10,000 likes [seeing] a drop of less than 3 percent” of Likes.

The news fits in line with a more general statement Facebook released yesterday regarding its efforts to reduce spam and false information on the social network by cracking down on fake accounts. Coupled with the recent push against fake news and inaccurate information being shared on the site, the announcements from Facebook show that the company is continuing to take spam and fraud more seriously going forward, which can only be a good thing.

Kendrick Lamar is releasing another album on Sunday, according to internet sleuths

Kendrick Lamar’s new album Damn dropped last night. Anticipation was high, and Kendrick’s fans reacted to the album the way the internet has taught them to: by dissecting it for clues. Clues about what?, you, a person who is merely content to have this album, might ask. Clues about another album, the internet would respond. According to a theory floating around and rapidly growing, Lamar is going to release another album this Sunday, and it’s called Nation.

Let’s back up. The theory seems to have started a few days ago with a thread in the subreddit r/Kendrick Lamar. The pervading theory is supported by the fact that today is Good Friday (a day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity) and two days from now is Easter Sunday (a day that celebrates his resurrection from the dead). Damn + Nation = Damnation.

As with all internet conspiracy theories, the clues don’t stop there, but they do get much stranger. For example, if you combine the letters in the Damn tracklist that appear against a white wall on the album’s back cover, they make an anagram for “Earth led 2 death.” Others have speculated it’s actually an anagram for “Death 2 the leader,” but there aren’t enough E’s for that to work. And on the Damn album cover, the “M” hangs over Kendrick’s head in a way that, if you squint, could look like devil horns. If you imagine similar art for an album called Nation, the “O” could look like a halo.

kendrick-lamar-damn-albumkendrick-lamar-damn-album

Another “clue” is a line from “The Heart Part IV,” a one-off single that Lamar released at the end of March: “I said it’s like that, dropped one classic, came right back / ‘Nother classic, right back / My next album, the whole industry on a ice pack / With TOC, you see the flames / In my E-Y-E’s; it’s not a game.”

Internet sleuths have decided that “TOC” stands for “The Other Color.” The first track on Damn is called “Blood,” and the album’s title appears in red. In this case, the other color would be blue (which some have pointed out could be a reference to Crip gang members). Last night, Kendrick changed his Spotify profile picture from one where he’s standing in front of a red wall, to one where he’s standing in front of a blue wall.

To top it all off, the idea that another new Kendrick album does exist somewhere was sneakily confirmed by Sounwave, an in-house producer for Kendrick’s label TDE who produced several tracks on Damn.

Shortly after that, Sounwave also tweeted a photo of Morpheus from The Matrix, who, if you’ve never seen the movie, says this line: “You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The rabbit hole does go deep, and it’s easy to see how fans could keep looking for more. Even Kendrick seems to have planted some clues in the album. Damn is stuttered with references to Christianity, exploring ideas like immaculate conception, prayer, and the apocalypse, alongside stories of major moments in Kendrick’s life. Then there’s the fact that the album’s first track, “Blood,” ends with a gunshot that seems to signify his death. Its final track, “Duckworth,” also features a gunshot, followed by audio played in reverse.

As KerryGD said on Reddit, “Too real to be fake now.”