Stop your gadgets from keeping you awake at night


Josh Miller/CNET

Have a hard time falling asleep? It might be time to stop falling asleep with your gadgets. Study after study after study has shown that light given off by electronics affects our sleep health.

The consensus is that the blue light that LED screens give off can slow or halt the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals our brain that it’s time for bed.

Without melatonin, we stay awake and alert, keeping us up later than intended. If you really want to get deep on this topic, read up on retinal ganglion cells, the sensors in our eyes that may be to blame for this phenomenon.

The simplest solution is to shy away from your phone or tablet before bed. But what if you can’t give up late-night Netflix sessions on your tablet, or thumbing through Instagram on your phone? Here’s help to stave off some of the negative effects of your screen addiction.

Apps for your weary eyes

Several apps have made it easy to battle the dreaded blue light using a warm red filter that changes the color temperature of your screen.

Flux adapts your device’s screen to the time of day, changing the hue of your screen when the sun sets. The subtle orange-red filter is easier on the eyes and automatically disappears when the sun rises again in the morning. Once you set up Flux, it runs in the background and adjusts based on your location and the time of year. The app is available for free for Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS devices and it’s easy to install.

The only catch is that on iPhones, iPads and iPods, you’ll need to jailbreak your device to use Flux, which can be a tedious and intimidating process that can void your warranty, so proceed with caution.

Twilight adjusts your screen temperature to block out blue light.
Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Also free, Twilight works a lot like Flux, but it’s built for Android devices. You get a bit more control with the app over the hue and intensity, using sliders in the app to adjust the color from deep red to pale yellow. You can opt for Twilight to stay on at all times, set specific times for it to run or let it work automatically, by coming on and shutting off with the setting and rising of the sun.

Finally, e-book subscription service Oyster recently added a nighttime setting called Lumin to its iOS and Android apps that counteracts blue light. With it turned on, your screen color will adjust over time, going from a soft amber in the early evening to a deeper amber at night. Since many dedicated e-readers don’t have a similar red-hued night mode, Oyster is a good alternative for reading books at night.

Hardware help

Software isn’t the only tool you can use to fight the dreaded blue light. There are a few external products promising to help too.

Though they are hardly fashionable, some research suggests wearing glasses with amber- or orange-colored lenses can block out blue light. These are usually sold as safety goggles and you can pick them up at most hardware stores or online for a couple bucks. They have an added benefit of blocking out blue light from your entire environment, including house lights and your TV.

You can also opt for a screen protector that combats blue light from your screen at all times. There are several options out there, and the highest-rated ones are from Tech Armor for the iPad and iPhone. These work just like other screen protectors, though reviews are mixed on how well they block out blue light.

Shut off and go to sleep

Despite all these efforts, some studies suggest that simply staring at a screen before bed, whether it’s giving off blue light or not, can keep you awake longer. Bright light in our environment can signal our brains to stay alert and we get a direct dose of it by looking at a phone or computer. Do yourself a favor and put down your tablet or phone at least 1 hour before bed — it could help you get a more restful night of sleep.

Commodore returns with an emulator-equipped smartphone

People of a certain age *awkwardly tugs collar* tend to get a little misty-eyed when talking about the great Commodore 64, as it was the machine that helped usher an entire generation into the world of personal computing.

Now, after changing hands several times over the last two decades, Wired is reporting that the Commodore name is back – as an Android-powered smartphone.

The Commodore PET (named after the Commodore’s first full-featured computer from 1977) has a 5.5 inch display, a 1.7GHz octa-core Mediatek processor, a 13-megapixel rear facing camera and a 3000 mAh battery.

Sorry mum, can’t talk – playing LeMans

The PET also comes equipped with two custom emulators that allow us nostalgic-types to revisit our favourite Commodore 64 and Amiga games (I’m coming for you, California Games).

It will be priced at around US$300 (approx. AU$400/£190) for the 16 GB model (which comes with a 32 GB microSD card), though true Commodore fans will want to spend $US360 (approx. AU$485/£230) for the 32 GB version which, when combined with its included additional storage, kind of makes it a Commodore “64” once more…

The phone will initially be available to buy later this month in Italy, France, Poland and Germany, and is expected to be released to the rest of the world in the not-too-distant future.

Finally, a reversible Micro-USB cable

No more guesswork. Both ends of this Micro-USB cable are reversible.

Here it is, 2015, and we’re still waiting for reversible USB. Although Type-C connectors promise to stop the one-way-only madness, the ports themselves have yet to arrive in any meaningful way — and even those don’t address an equally vexing plug problem: the other end.

Specifically, you know that Micro-USB connector that goes into your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, Bluetooth headset and pretty much every other non-Apple device known to man? Figuring out which end goes up is enough to drive a person to Lightning. Apple’s flawed-but-at-least-reversible port solved this issue years ago.

Enter MicFlip (pronounced “Mike-flip”), which claims to be the world’s first reversible Micro-USB cable. And it’s reversible at both ends, not just the USB Type-A side.

Although a Micro-USB port has a slightly trapezoidal shape that would seem to preclude a reversible connector, developer Winnergear says they’ve cracked it. What’s more, the MicFlip cable features gold-plated plugs, a braided nylon cable and aluminum connector housings.

That’s no doubt to help justify the expected $20 retail price, considerably higher than that of the average Micro-USB cable. This one, thankfully, promises to be compatible with all Micro-USB devices.

For now, the MicFlip exists as a fully funded Indiegogo campaign, with early-backer options still available at the $15 level — a price that includes worldwide shipping. (The $10 option is sold out.) Estimated delivery is September, and the campaign page suggests the developers are actually ready to start shipping as soon as August. In fact, now that it’s fully funded, Winnergear is “not waiting for the campaign to end,” but rather starting production immediately.

What do you think? Would you pay $20 for a cable that solves Micro-USB’s biggest hassle? Given that Apple charges $30 for a branded Lightning cable and even third-party certified Lightning cables are around half that price, this doesn’t seem too out of whack.

Oh, if you do nothing else, watch the campaign’s promo video. It’s slightly NSFW, but admirably amusing.

iPods getting spec update, new colours next week

It looks like Apple isn’t ready to let the iPod die off just yet: French website iGen reports that new models are arriving on 14 July with upgraded processors for the iPod touch models.

Those new colours we got a glimpse of a couple of weeks ago are apparently going to be available, and the cosmetic refresh is going to cover the whole line: iPod touch, iPod nano and iPod shuffle.

The smaller models won’t get spec bumps, iGen says, but the touch is going to get a 64-bit upgrade on the 32-bit A5 it currently sports.

The sound of music devices

None of this has yet been confirmed by Apple, but the 14 July date is based on code spotted inside the latest iTunes 12.2 software. Apple has traditionally unveiled new iPods in September.

With the recently launched Apple Music to promote, it seems the tech firm is eager to redouble its efforts on music hardware as well – even if most of us are using our smartphones as jukeboxes these days.

Keep your eyes on the Apple Store on Tuesday if you think you might be in the market for some new iPod devices. Gold, dark blue and bright pink colours are expected to be added to the line-up.

Via AppleInsider

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Toyota opens its in-car box with direct Pandora integration

Get ready to cause a Rukus on the roads, as Toyota Corollas out support for Pandora internet radio across a wide range of its vehicles.

Pandora’s personalised radio stations will be available on vehicles with Toyota Link, so the days of listening to rubbish radio while you RAV4 your engine will be well and truly behind you.

Using your smartphone’s data connection, you can listen to many more than 86 (technically up to 100) different personalised radio stations, with controls replicated on the car’s in-dash head unit.

Yaris, the Prius is right

The Hilux of this new system is that it will work from the moment your smartphone is paired to your stereo over Bluetooth, helping to Camry your musical tastes with you with a minimum of effort.

While Pandora has been integrated into plenty of other manufacturer’s cars before now, this will help expand the Pandora footprint much further as Toyota is Australia’s highest selling car brand.

But really, this news still only does a little to lessen the news that Toyota is avoiding CarPlay and Android Auto for now.

This is how handwriting with the iPen will work on the iPad Pro

Penning the next Great American Novel on the iPad Pro may have just gotten easier thanks to Apple’s latest handwriting user interface patent.

If the patent becomes commercialized in future tablets, iPad Pro owners won’t have to resort to attaching third-party Bluetooth keyboards or pecking on the touchscreen keyboard. Instead, users could do it the old-fashioned way – scribbling words on the screen with their fingertips or using a stylus to ink their thoughts. It’s Apple version of the digital quill.

How it works

Like existing tablets that support handwriting – like Microsoft’s Surface 3, HP’s Pro Tablet 608 or Samsung’s Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 – Apple’s patent reveals a handwriting input area on the bottom of the screen and converted digital text would appear at the top.

The handwriting input area includes shortcuts to add a space, return, numbers and punctuations. This appears in a narrow bar just below the handwriting space.

iPad Pro handwriting

The patent does not explicitly detail that a stylus or digital input is required for handwriting use. Although you can scribble letters and words with your fingers on the iPad Pro’s glass, composing a longer email may be easier with a digital pen. Previous rumors suggest that the iPad Pro will include such an option when it debuts.

Handwriting UI and processing

One method is to continuously clear handwritten characters once you move onto the next character or word. This way, when you reach the other end of the screen, all prior written text would be cleared, and then you could re-start from the beginning. As you’re writing, the handwritten text at the bottom gets converted to digital text at the top.

This is similar to using a software keyboard, but rather than having a software keyboard, you have a soft input panel for handwriting.

In another example, Apple details an interface where handwritten characters fade, rather than completely clear out, as you write along across the panel to the other edge of the screen. Once you reach the end, you can write over the faded characters to start anew.

Post-writing conversions

Apple’s patent details instantaneous conversion of handwriting input to digital text, but doesn’t mention if handwritten notes can be converted to digital notes using optical character recognition, or OCR.

Samsung’s Note application on the Galaxy Note series and Microsoft’s OneNote program on Windows tablets support this feature, which is useful for students and business executives taking notes in lectures and meetings.

This feature differs from instantaneous conversion in that you can capture your entire note with handwriting, as if you’re writing on paper, and then convert the notes after to have a digital transcription later. This allows for a more natural way to capture longer notes or documents, and OCR allows those notes to be searchable.

Additionally, some users may prefer to keep a copy of their entire handwritten notes, rather than the transcribed copy, which does not seem possible in this recent patent application.

iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is anticipated to arrive with a 12.9-inch screen. Previous reports suggest that the tablet may launch as early as this year, though rumored production difficulties could delay the tablet’s debut until 2016.

The tablet may come with Apple’s new USB-C port, which debuted on the new MacBook, along with stereo speakers, making it suitable for entertainment and productivity.

iPad Pro rendering

In the past, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had dismissed the stylus, and to date no iPhone or iPad model has come with a pen of any kind. However, Apple has been known to change its mind, and if the stylus makes its debut on the iPad Pro, it could make the tablet even more attractive for enterprise use.

Source: Patently Apple

Fund This: Znaps adds MagSafe-style connector to your phone — for $9

Oh, yes!

One thing I’ve long admired about MacBooks: Apple’s super-cool, super-logical MagSafe, the power connector that pops on and off with magnetic ease. Indeed, I’ve often wondered why the company didn’t bring this tech to iPhones.

Third-party developers to the rescue! Znaps is a MagSafe-style magnetic adapter for smartphones — and not just iPhones, but also Android and other Micro-USB-powered devices. (That’s huge, because you end up with a reversible Micro-USB connector. See above.)

The Znaps Lightning connector.

Alas, it’s not quite a product yet, but rather a Kickstarter campaign looking to raise around $94,000. As of this writing, it’s already one-third funded, with a full 29 days left to go. (Prediction: fully funded within 24 hours.)

If this sounds a bit familiar, you may be thinking of the Cabin, an iPhone-only battery sled that also leveraged the MagSafe concept. It debuted on Kickstarter almost a year ago to the day, and was successfully funded almost immediately. However, developer Hevo Labs started shipping product only about a month ago (according to comments on that same Kickstarter page), meaning backers had to wait almost an entire year. What’s more, the company doesn’t appear to be taking new orders; the “Order Now” button merely leads back to the Kickstarter page.

Not exactly a success story. But Znaps (wisely) isn’t going the sled route, instead offering a simple two-piece kit: a magnetic adapter for your existing sync/charge cable and a tiny plug for your Micro-USB or Lightning port.

This is, at best, a small convenience, a way to connect your charging cable one-handed and pop it loose with a simple yank. Thankfully, with this small convenience comes a small price: Backers can get a Znaps connector and adapter (Lightning or Micro-USB) for just $9 US, plus $3 for shipping. There are numerous higher levels with more connectors/adapters, like $18 US for two of each.

The developer estimates a November delivery, but remember that’s an estimate. Kickstarter projects are notoriously late, as backers of the aforementioned Cabin can attest.

Even so, I’m in. Love the idea, love the price. Your thoughts?

TechRadar Deals: Best Amazon Kindle deals in July 2015: grab a cheap Amazon ereader!

Welcome to TechRadar’s dedicated page for Amazon Kindle deals. Here you’ll find the cheapest Kindle deals for all models, whether it be for the classic ereaders or the Fire tablet versions.

We cross check every model of Kindle with every retailer every day to pull in the best deals so that this page is always up to date with the cheapest prices.

What makes a good Kindle deal?

If this is your first Kindle, you’ll be wanting to know – how do you tell a good Kindle deal when you see one? Luckily, there are so many good ones out there it’s pretty easy!

The traditional Kindle ereaders don’t have LCD screens or powerful internal components which means they’re always going to be a lot cheaper than tablets and phones.

The top-end Kindle, which at the moment is the Kindle Voyage, normally has a price of about £170 so if you can get it for cheaper than that you’re onto a winner. After that, there isn’t a huge difference in features so it all depends how much you want to spend. If you can find the Kindle Paperwhite for under £100 you’re getting a good price, while the Kindle 2014 model has a fairly static price of £59 but every now and then it dips down below that mark.

For the tablets, the best thing to do is just work out how much you want to spend and pick up the model that sits closest to your budget. The HDX models are the good ones so do go for one of those if you can.

Here are the best Kindle deals currently available…

kindle voyage deals

Kindle Voyage deals

The top of the range Kindle is the most expensive

We’ll kick off with Kindle Voyage deals. If you want the best Kindle, this is the one. It’s probably the best ebook reader available right now. It’s more compact than the other Kindles on this page, the screen is sharper and it’s essentially a step up from any ereader Amazon has made so far. A flush display makes the device easier to keep clean and carry around, the screen’s resolution is the highest it has ever been, and it even comes with an ace origami-style case (at additional cost).

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kindle paperwhite deals

Kindle Paperwhite deals

The best standard Kindle ever is a value-for-money winner

The 6th generation Kindle Paperwhite is the best standard Kindle yet, it’s the most cost effective ereader on the market and it easily beats the Kobo Aura on performance and design. Amazon has managed to create a fast e-ink tablet with inventive reading apps.

kindle deals

kindle deals

Amazon Kindle (2014) deals

The first touchscreen Kindle is now an absolute bargain

The Amazon Kindle (2014) is a very fine ereader. It was the first model to come with a touchscreen, a major change and it’s hugely beneficial. So much so that if you don’t currently have a touchscreen ereader it’s definitely worth upgrading to. You might think you’re fine with buttons, but everything is just so much easier and faster when you can tap the screen.

kindle deals

kindle 8 9 deals

Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 deals

The premium version of the above two budget tablets

Amazon also does touchscreen tablet versions of the Kindle. The latest ones have dropped the name Kindle, but it’s still the same thing – a Kindle Fire which runs on Android software and has all the same Amazon features baked in by default. If you’re looking for a family tablet that everyone can share, and you’re happy to dive into the Amazon ecosystem and sign up for Amazon Prime, maybe even pick up a Fire TV as well, then the Fire HDX 8.9 is probably the best tablet for you.

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kindle hd 6 deals

Amazon Fire HD 6 deals

The latest tablet version of the Kindle Fire

One of the most enticing tablets to come from Amazon, mixing efficient integration with the Prime services and a compact footprint that makes it easy to drop in your bag, this 6-incher is no tablet king, but it does what it sets out to well. It’s quite small though, so if 6-inches is too tiny you could have a look at the options below.

kindle deals

kindle hd 7 deals

Amazon Fire HD 7 deals

The 7-inch version of Amazon’s latest Kindle tablet

Sitting at the budget end of Amazon’s Kindle tablet range, the HD 7 is the same as the HD 6 only slightly bigger. In terms of a content delivery system, the HD 7 is absolutely perfect. Getting to your favourite TV shows, films or books couldn’t be easier and, if you’re prepared to pay for a subscription, you can get even more from it. Likewise, the ability to have different profiles – some for the kids – through Amazon FreeTime is really helpful.

kindle deals

kindle fire 7 deals

Kindle Fire HDX 7 deals

Last year’s main Kindle tablet, now available with some great deals

For the right kind of customer, the Kindle Fire HDX is the perfect tablet. And who is that customer? Someone who doesn’t want to do much more than consume content on their tablet. For the customisation you give up, you gain simplicity and ease of use. We’d like to call this the sort of tablet you give to someone who is less than tech savvy, but those devices don’t usually have such good hardware. There’s not single junk part on the Kindle Fire HDX that’ll spoil your experience with all of Amazon’s rich content. Features like X-Ray for movies, downloadable Prime videos and Mayday will have the most ardent Nexus fan feeling rather jealous.

kindle deals

hdx deals

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 deals

The 8.9-inch version of the tablet above is an excellent offering

If you just want to watch TV and movies, read books and listen to music, and you already have an Amazon Prime account and are into Amazon’s ecosystem, we have no doubt that you’ll love this tablet.

We check our Kindle deals every day to make sure they’re always up to date and available!

Huawei Nexus phone leak points to 5.7-inch screen, fingerprint sensor

Will a successor to the Nexus 6 come from China?

More details may be leaking out on an upcoming Google Nexus phone built by Huawei.

Reports have been floating about suggesting that Google will release two new, big-screened Nexus phones, or phablets, this year. One of those could be designed by LG Electronics, which was responsible for the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 but was replaced by Motorola for the Nexus 6. The other model Nexus could be manufactured by China-based Huawei, which has made a big splash in its home market and other countries with its low-cost smartphones.

Assuming the reports are true, this would mark a first for Google in trying to unleash two new Nexus phones at the same time. Why two at once? Well, the LG model would reportedly sport a 5.2-inch screen, while Huawei’s edition would come with a 5.7-inch display. So Google may be trying to pull off the same strategy that Apple did with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — offer one model with a relatively smaller screen and a second with a larger display to appeal to as many people as possible. The current Nexus 6 comes with a super-sized 6-inch screen, so Google may also be trying to shrink the display a bit to make the phones more feasible for consumers who don’t want jumbo phones.

The leaked details served up early Wednesday by known leaker Evan Blass, or ‏@evleaks, claim that the Huawei Nexus would come with a 5.7-inch QHD (Quad High Definition) screen with a 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution and a metal body. Powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, the phone would also come with a fingerprint reader, according to Blass. Per Google’s usual time frame, the new Nexus would ship in the fourth quarter.

Some of these details have already been alleged, such as the 5.7-inch screen. Others are taken for granted, such as the fourth-quarter launch. But Blass has a pretty good track record. So the mere face that he’s revealing specs for a Huawei Nexus phone adds more fuel to the fire that this phone may be a reality.

Google did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment.

(Via BGR)