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Google Drive for Android gets Material Design and updated search, sharing and PDF tools

Google is updating its Google Drive Android app with a new Material Design look, as well as a few new features.

First is a small improvement to its search tool – it now updates the results while you’re typing to save you some time while looking for a document.

Next up, you can now add messages when you share a file to give details about why you’re sharing, as well as change privacy sharing for files.

sharing modals 730x344 Google Drive for Android gets Material Design and updated search, sharing and PDF tools

Finally, the PDF viewer is getting an update to let you search for and copy text from a PDF without needing to enter a separate app.

Small changes, but they should make the app a little more useful, as well as help approximate some of the desktop functionality mobile users have missed out on.

Better ways to find, view, and share in Drive for Android [Google Drive Blog]

YouTube makes gamers happy with 60fps playback

Google Wallet now lets you add money through recurring bank transfers, send low balance alerts

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Kdan Mobile’s Cloud-Based Apps Are An Alternative To Adobe Products

Kdan Mobile wants to fill the space between Adobe’s mobile products and Evernote by providing cloud-based creativity and productivity apps for iOS and Android, like Animation Desk and NoteLedge, that are targeted toward amateur users and students.

Kdan Creative Cloud allows users to access their content on different devices and in the near future founder CEO Kenny Su says the startup, which is currently raising closing its Series A, plans to parse data from all of its apps to help people organize their content more quickly based on file formats.

“Currently our marketing position is to try to complete the whole mobile content creation experience between Adobe and Evernote. Evernote’s business strategy is to help people keep everything in the cloud, but if people create something more, they don’t have the tools. Adobe has always been targeted to professional users, not mobile users who are amateurs,” say Su.

Two of Kdan’s apps, NoteLedge and Animation Desk, have gained traction through a partnerships with Samsung and Microsoft. The apps are currently pre-installed on several of Samsung’s mobile devices, including the Galaxy 3 and Galaxy tablet, in 13 Asian countries, as well as Microsoft’s Lumia series in Taiwan.

Now Kdan faces the challenge of striking additional partnerships, getting additional users outside of those partnerships, and convincing existing users to sign up for Kdan Creative Cloud. Su says Kdan has already signed partnerships with carriers in North America, but can’t currently talk about them because of a non-disclosure agreement.

In total, Kdan’s suite of apps Kdan Creative Cloud currently has 100,000 registered members and adds an additional 2,000 to 3,000 users per day. The company’s goal is to have one million subscribers by the end of 2015. Su says the company plans to encourage people to subscribe the Kdan Creative Cloud by offering promotions as well as special features to unlock.

Currently eight apps are connected to Kdan’s cloud: Animation Desk ($4.99 in the App Store), NoteLedge ($4.99), PDF Reader ($4.99), PDF Connoisseur ($9.99), Pocket Scanner ($3.99), Write-on Video ($3.99), PazteUp ($4.99), and EleEditor ($2.99).

Of these, Kdan Mobile considers PDF Connoisseur, NoteLedge, and Animation Desk its flagship products.

Animation Desk, which lets users turn drawings into animations on their iPads, is meant as an alternative to Adobe’s Edge Animate for students and amateurs who don’t need all the features of pricier software. It supports four frame rates (or FPS, frames-per-second) from 3FPS to 24FPS and includes pre-loaded dynamic or static backgrounds, so users don’t have to draw their own. Animation Desk is optimized for use with Adonit, Ten One Design, and Hex3 styluses.

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PDF Connoisseur includes a scanner that turns documents into PDFs, a PDF reader, a file converter, downloader, and file transfer tool. Additional features include a text-to-speech reader that supports six languages (English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean); an optical character recognition (OCR) tool that recognizes 12 languages and turns text from scans into a searchable .txt file; and a PDF editor.

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NoteLedge is an EverNote competitor, but geared towards younger users with options like different notebooks, stylus styles that include crayon and watercolor, and in-app sticker purchases. Like EverNote, NoteLedge also supports audio and video recording.

A subscription to Kdan Creative Cloud currently costs $2.99 a month or $9.99 a year for individual users, and $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year for businesses.

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Inside The FCC’s 1.1 Million Net Neutrality Comments

If you ever wanted to make your Chrome browser freeze 10 times in one afternoon, you could take a look at the 1.4 GB of XML files of net neutrality comments that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted on Tuesday.

More than 1.1 million comments regarding net neutrality have been submitted to the FCC, and we expect that number to surge as the second comment period comes to a close on September 10. The only time the commission has seen more data was in response to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in the 2004 Super Bowl.

The FCC released five massive XML files that contained the comments. TechCrunch went through two — batches one and four — to sort the content of the missives by keyword to see if anything interesting cropped up. Our sample size — thousands and thousands and thousands of comments — shed light on the general bent of commenters’ main topics of interest: free speech, ISPs and anger.

After summing our search results from the two files, the term ‘free speech’ racked up 2,322 mentions, beating out Netflix, which picked up 1,903. Comcast beat both with 4,613. Notes containing New York, Chicago, and San Francisco — each mostly sourced from the location of the comment submitter — came in at 1,447, 1,109, and 979 apiece.

TechCrunch itself picked up 22 mentions, all from the first file. We beat out ‘Greenwald’ who picked up a slimmer nine mentions. Drunk, with five mentions, beat both Kanye and Oprah, who got a mere two apiece. Metallica was not mentioned, nor was Katy Perry.

Here’s a chart of some of our favorite entries:

Net Neutrality

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER SARAH JOY UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo app

Here’s the idea: Because even the newest and most advanced iPads have limited horsepower, on-the-go artists have to wait until they can get back to their laptop or desktop Photoshop app to perform complex imaging acrobatics.

The new Adobe Photoshop Mix, a cloud-based image editor and compositor that debuted as part of Creative Cloud 2014, will actually perform some processor-intensive functions — like content aware fill, lens correction and shake reduction — in the cloud and deliver the results to your iPad.

With Mix, not only can you open native Photoshop PSD files, but you can even choose to open a single layer of a PSD file for editing on your Apple tablet. Of course, the app can also access all the photos in the device’s Camera Roll, and let you use its in-app photo shooting feature to capture new images.

2014 06 19 20.11.07 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appSelect the subject with your finger to separate the foreground from the background. Mix does a good job with its Photoshop-like smart select and refine edge features.

Adobe has other high-level mobile imaging apps — notably Photoshop Touch — which lets you do some mighty complex tasks with an iPad or iPhone and your fingertips. The difference between the two is not only what they can do, but where and how.

Mix is much easier to use than Photoshop Touch, and it’s free, compared to the $9.99 price tag for the iPad app. But that’s only fair because with this debut version, Mix offers a limited number of high-caliber options compared to Photoshop Touch, though it performs these feats without taxing your iPad’s processor.

2014 06 19 20.13.37 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appDrop in a second background image for an easy, sophisticated-looking composite. This is the closest Lisa will ever get to the great outdoors.

In addition to this cloud-based madness, Mix also offers an assortment of down-to-earth image editing functions that most photo enthusiasts will recognize from consumer editing apps such as Aviary or Camera+. You can use Photoshop Mix to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation and clarity with handy sliders and real-time previews. You can apply looks — filters in Instagram parlance — or extract parts of photos to combine two different photos together in a composite.

In addition to local files, Mix lets you access images from your Creative Cloud account, Lightroom Mobile library and Facebook account. When you’re done with your picture, or get to a point where you can stop working, you can export even layered and masked images back to Photoshop on the computer or publish your work to the Adobe-owned Behance community for help or comment. (Note that Behance is only available to Creative Cloud subscribers, while Mix is available to anyone.)

2014 06 19 20.14.12 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appThere’s plenty of cropping choices.

Familiar interface

The Mix interface is similar to Adobe’s recent iPad apps, including Photoshop Touch and the new Adobe Sketch and Adobe Line: Horizontal orientation, with left-side vertical navigation lets you pull the photos you want to work with into the canvas.

The Cut Out Photos feature is reminiscent of the quick select in Photoshop — you use your finger or a tablet stylus to select parts of an image, just as you would with a mouse or pen tablet on the desktop. If you want to combine parts of one image into a second photo, this technique combines them via guided steps in the interface

2014 06 19 20.17.23 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appAdd looks separately to each image, or paint the effects on the specific area you want.

As in the past, Adobe has employed gestures to scale, move, transform, resize and change the arrangement of image elements. Swipe two fingers to the right to undo and back to the left to redo, though sometimes this gesture winds up moving the whole photo.

Its ease of use is a real advantage for many reasons, not the least of which is now that Adobe has made its $9.99-a-month Photography Program a permanent offering of Creative Cloud, it will likely attract more of the enthusiast crowd to the subscription program that includes Photoshop CC and all the Lightroom apps.

2014 06 19 20.19.28 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appThree cloud-based actions are available in Mix right now.

The content aware fill feature worked quite well in various images, and very much like it works on the desktop. The upright function also performed respectably, and as expected. Less of a success was the Shake Reduction feature. On several shaky images I tried, the effect mostly resembled sharpening which, though adjustable via the slider, also left artifacts. I thought the local Clarity control in the enhance module actually did a better job on at least one image I tried. While the result was still a little soft, at least there were no accompanying artifacts.

Bandwidth issues

One snag I see with Mix is bandwidth. It took on average two minutes and 15 seconds each to do a lens correction and a shake reduction operation, start to finish, on iPhone images. It took two minutes and 13 seconds for a three-layer, 24MB PSD file to load into the Mix interface from Creative Cloud and more than five minutes for a 67MB multiple-layer PSD file to load for example, on my Wi-Fi network. If your home network isn’t fast, Mix’s cloud activities might be a problem.

2014 06 19 20.38.57 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appThe cloud-based content aware fill made one side of the sky look cloudless.

Bottom line

As a 1.0 product, Adobe Photoshop Mix makes a respectable debut out of the gate. But to live up to the Photoshop title, I expect that future versions will have even more capabilities.

Photoshop Mix is a significant achievement for Adobe. It’s one of the first mobile apps developed with Adobe’s new Creative SDK, a software library that the company is now beta testing with an eye toward  distributing it free of charge to third-party developers.

Abu 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appThe shake reduction feature gives four choices, but all seemed too oversharpened. Toning down the last choice was the best option in this case.

Unlike Photoshop Touch, Adobe has shown with Mix that complex photo manipulations do not have to be difficult to accomplish. It operates step-by-step with formulas that give you outcome choices. Its round-trip, non-destructive editing features are convenient and forgiving.

Connectivity may prove the most profound barrier to some users, however. While Adobe generally states that Wi-Fi connectivity will yield better performance than cellular, even with Wi-Fi, mileage will vary for cloud functions. Nonetheless, there are an abundance of elegant local options that you can save to your camera roll that do not require a fast connection.

2014 06 20 16.17.47 730x547 Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo appThe Upright feature did a nice job with the telephone pole. Just crop and you’re good to go.

It’s unclear at this point how long the cloud-based features, which are described in the app as premium offerings, will be free to use, and Adobe will not comment on that.

You have nothing to lose in checking out Mix on your iPad right now. Not only is it free, but even with an Adobe ID login, you still can opt for the free subscription, which gives you 2GB of server space to save your work.

➤ Photoshop Mix

Excerpt from: Adobe Photoshop Mix review: Not just another iPad photo app

Gasp: Twitter GIFs Aren’t Actually GIFs

surprised andy

What’s in a format? Does that which we call a GIF by any other name invoke just as many lols?

Just yesterday, Twitter started supporting animated GIFs. But there’s a catch! What Twitter ends up showing you isn’t actually a GIF at all. EVERYBODY PAAANIIIIIIC.

Note: don’t actually panic. This isn’t a bad thing. Quite the contrary.

As noticed by the folks over at Embedly, the “GIFs” that end up in your Twitter feed aren’t actually GIFs at all. They’re technically not even really image files in a strict sense — they’re more like video files without sound. They’re MP4s, embedded with the HTML5 video tag. Even if you upload a GIF, it’s converted into an MP4.

While the GIF/MP4 difference may seem trivial, it’s actually a pretty damned smart move on Twitter’s part. Why? Compression, compression, compression.

You see, for all of its ubiquity and seemingly recent popularity, the GIF is an antique. It was introduced in 1987, picked up animation support around 1989, and… hasn’t really changed since. The upside? It works pretty much everywhere. The downside? The format is nearly 30 friggin’ years old, and its age shows in maaaany ways. That’s why lots of GIFs are just a few seconds long with awful color, yet many megabytes large.

Video compression, meanwhile, has come a pretty long way in the past 30 years. An MP4 can be twice as smooth and thrice as pretty, but still come in at a quarter the file size.

For Twitter, that means lower bandwidth bills. For you, that means less waiting around for GIFs to load.

Are there drawbacks? Sure. Some browsers don’t play friendly with HTML5′s video tag yet, so Twitter would have to fallback to something else in those cases. (Oddly, as far as I can tell, Twitter is falling back to Flash there.) Some browsers also make it a bit less straightforward to save MP4s for later resharing. But over the next few years, we’ll probably see the switch from GIF to MP4 become fairly commonplace.

That raises the question: what do we call these little looping bits of silent animation, if they’re not actually GIF files anymore?

Most people don’t care about the technical implementations of one thing versus another – they just want an easy-to-remember word for whatever they’re referring to. And once that name gets popular? Changing its usage is like trying to move a mountain by yelling at it. See: “Xerox” for photocopies, “Photoshop” for photo editing, or “Googling” for “not using Bing”. Half a decade from now, will the term “GIF” have been abstracted to mean anything short, silent, and looping?

Link: Gasp: Twitter GIFs Aren’t Actually GIFs

OneSky’s Platform Makes Translating Apps Easy

App translation and localization service OneSky‘s best-known clients include Scribd and QuizUp. With so many app translation providers out there, however, how does OneSky differentiate? Co-founder Loki Ng says the startup, which is based in Hong Kong and will open a San Francisco office soon, gives clients an easier workflow by providing a translation management platform that lets app developers and professional human translators connect without having to exchange countless emails.

Android and iOS developers are provided with an SDK that they can plug into their app with four or five lines of code, which allows them to take screenshots and tag all phrases they need translated. Then they upload the screen shots to OneSky’s platform for translators to reference. While translators are working, they can see exactly how the phrase will be displayed, giving them a better idea of how it fits into the context of the app.

OneSky supports more than 30 popular file formats for iOS and Android apps, so developers don’t have to convert technical files into Excel documents in order to for translators to access written content.

“They can just upload technical files and we can parse all the files for them and make sure that our translations will not crash their files,” says Ng. “Then they can download the translated files after that. We can help them do validations so they can even hook up the API to automate the whole process, so the engineering team can forget about the translation process after the integration.”

QuizUp translated into Spanish by OneSky

QuizUp translated into Spanish by OneSky

Another feature that helps simplify the workflow for developers is OneSky’s support for Google Play, Amazon’s Appstore, and the iOS App Store. For the latter, OneSky’s system automatically downloads an app’s description from iTunes. Translators can then use OneSky’s platform to make sure that the translated version of the description will fit within iTunes strict character limits.

Ng says that most translations are available within a day if they are 2,000 words or less.

OneSky is currently working on a new feature that will help clients do on-device testing. Translators will have the particular device an app is meant for, like an iPhone or Android tablet, so they can use the app and check for any problems or awkward translations. If they spot any issues, they update the translation on OneSky’s platform. Clients will be notified immediately so they can download the most updated files for their app.

OneSky currently has 2,000 translators, who it found by asking local translation agencies for referrals. Then they ask applicants to complete a test. All translators must live in countries where their target language is a main or official language, so OneSky looks at their IP addresses to make sure they are based where they say they are. The company also does random spot checks to weed out translators who deliver poor quality work.

Most of OneSky’s clients are from Europe or the U.S. who have developed apps originally in western European languages like English, French, German, and Spanish. Most are targeting expansion to other European countries. OneSky also works with game publishing company Yodo1 in China to help developers enter that country, since it can be a difficult market to tackle without a local partner.

The company monetizes by charging about 10 to 13 cents per word. OneSky is currently working on a feature called OneSky Academy, or a series of articles that will give developers tips on how to localize apps for different markets, and plans to seek funding by the end of this year or next year, depending on how fast the company grows, says Ng.

Photo by Flickr user Andrew Fysh used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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Box IPO Delay Wouldn’t Be Without Compromises

It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Box.

First came word that Intralinks bought DocTrackr, an information rights management vendor that Box reportedly had its eye on. Then last night, the Wall Street Journal and others were reporting that Box plans to delay its IPO.

What’s happening here?

It could be a case of simple bad timing or even misinterpretation. For what it’s worth, Box spokesperson, Ashley Mayer told me last night in an email that the company will not be commenting on the timing of the IPO. That changed today when a company spokesperson issued an official statement in response to the spate of articles on their IPO:

“Our IPO has never had a set date. Since filing, we’ve planned on going when it makes the most sense for the market. That plan hasn’t changed.”

And a person close to the company told me he was amused watching the tech press trip over itself over this story (guilty as charged) because no tech company is on the road right now due to the current market volatility.  As this person said somewhat exasperatedly, “A delay would imply there was a schedule.”

So what we have is a classic case of conflicting stories. Tim Walters, who is partner at Digital Clarity Group also thinks it might be a non-story for many of the reasons Alex Wilhelm outlined in his story on TechCrunch last night regarding the sorry state of tech stocks  in general these days, but Walters says a delay would not be without risk.

“It *could* hurt sales efforts, and revenue (and so eventually the IPO) insofar as competitors will (or should) start spewing FUD about Box possibly being sold, or struggling, or lacking management vision, etc. But that just means that tomorrow’ FUD will have a slightly different composition than yesterday’s — and it’s up to Box’s hired-gun, enterprise-experienced sales executives to figure out how to deal with that,” Walters wrote in an email.

Geoff Bock, principal at Bock & Company, who has been writing about content management for many years says this may force Box to look at where its value proposition lies and that may not be a bad thing in Bock’s view because much of Box’s offering has become commoditized.

“It’s important to remember that Box got started as a networked file sharing service for the mobile revolution — providing easy access to files from any device. Yet these capabilities are now commodity features, available from a multitude of vendors large and small,” he explained.

Bock sees the market battleground transforming to developing and deploying mobile apps that have smart access to backend enterprise resources and he believes if Box can exploit this they can evolve past the commodity services model.

“It’s clear to me that Box provides important services. The company seems to be investing in metadata management and APIs to integrate with existing enterprise resources. Box may well become the mobile middleware that powers these third-generation experiences. The jury’s still out and I am continually looking for proof points,” Bock said.

Bock’s vision is actually in line with comments that Box CEO Aaron Levie made at South by Southwest in March in an on-stage interview with Jessi Hemple from Time’s Brainstorm Tech. Levie said that in five years he sees his company transforming to one where customers build applications on top of the Box platform, rather than using the Box app directly as they do today.

Lawrence Hawes, who is principal at Dow Brook Consulting and has been covering the cloud collaboration space for a long time, says the biggest risk with a delay is that potential investors might get spooked.

“Potential investors may have another look at Box’s finances and growth prospects, and then decide to not participate or to do so at a lower share price,” he said. Hawes added, ” Box may well have to price their initial offering lower and raise less capital than they wanted; they will get a better sense of that when they finally start their road show and talk to prospective institutional investors.”

For Hawes, the big, unanswered question is whether Box will still be able to raise enough money with this IPO to gain a couple of years worth of operating funds. “If not,” he says “they may have to agree to be acquired by a larger firm to make an exit that satisfies current investors.”

But Bock has different advice for investors. “I would advise investors to follow the metadata and the middleware as they try to value a third-generation platform. There’s much more at stake than securely mobilizing access to shared files.”

Whatever the outcome, it seems that Box is at a crossroads and what happens over the next few months could define the future direction of the company, one in which they continue as an independent though publicly traded company or one in which they are sold and absorbed into another organization.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER DOUG WALDRON. USED UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE.

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