samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa (6)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition may have launched in September with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but today the tablet is making the jump to Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The new update is only for those with the Wi-Fi variant of the device, though 3G and LTE models are expected to follow suit in relatively short order.

As for what’s new here? Like we’ve seen with Samsung’s other KitKat updates for devices like the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, not a whole lot. The Android 4.4.2 update adds a host of KitKat features like immersive mode, cloud printing, white status bar icons and tweaks that provide faster performance. Samsung has yet to highlight if there are any Samsung-specific changes, though we’d imagine that there are at least a few minor changes.

According to SamMobile, the update has only been officially spotted in Columbia, though it should be making its way to other regions as soon as today. Regardless of what region you live in, you can always attempt to check for the update manually by going into settings > general > about phone > software updates.

So how about it, received the update yet? If so, what region are you in?

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Following a fairly successful soft launch in Canada, Zynga’s FarmVille 2: Country Escape launches globally today on iOS and Android. The Facebook version has been out since 2012, though the new mobile version won’t require a social plug-in to bug your friends for resources. You can also play offline, which is a nice change of pace from these types of games. The usual freemium city-building tropes are here: gather resources, plant new crops, wait on timers, or speed them up through in-app purchases, and co-operate with friends.

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Flickr for Android just got a complete overhaul, bumping the app to version 3.0 and bring a host of new and welcome features. First thing you’ll notice upon opening the new Flickr is the completely redesigned interface, bringing it up to modern Android standards. It also just looks plain better than the old version (and possibly better than the iOS version). The app has also gained a suite of editing tools that let you tweak and refine your photos.

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oneplus one invite system

For a startup that’s not even a year old, China-based OnePlus has been doing an amazing job at drumming up the excitement for its first smartphone, the OnePlus One.

And if OnePlus keeps all its promises, all the fuss might actually be worth it. Who wouldn’t be interested in an affordable device offering high-end specs and a custom version of CyanogenMod?

The only small problem? Not everyone will be able to buy the OnePlus One, at least not at launch.

In a posting on the company forums, Carl Pei, Director of OnePlus Global, announced that the One will be made available on a system called the “OnePlus Invite System”. In simple words, you will need an invitation in order to claim a OnePlus One. Each buyer will be able to send a number of invitations to their friends, while some invitations will be made available through contests and other promotional activities. The number of invitations will be limited in the beginning, and will ramp up once sales gain steam.

Why is OnePlus doing this?

In their own words, “it’s very hard to predict the future, and hardware is expensive. Producing larger batches means tying in more capital and increasing risk. Making too many devices that end up not being sold can bankrupt a business easily”.

This may be a really smart move

The company thinks the pre-order system and the batch system are frustrating and cumbersome for customers. Going for an invite system has the advantage of limiting logistic and production risks. And, if things work out as OnePlus hopes, the system could provide excellent word of mouth promotion, as well as create the illusion of scarcity, thus making the OnePlus One seem even more valuable.

But the move could also backfire. If OnePlus misjudged the interest of customers or their willingness to jump through hoops to buy the One, the whole scheme could turn into a fiasco.

Regardless of how it works out, OnePlus deserves praising for the willingness to take risks and try out new approaches. In an industry dominated by entrenched rivals with billions in their war chests, a young, gutsy company from China might actually prove you can make things differently.

What do you think of OnePlus’ idea? Join us in our new OnePlus One forums to discuss it.

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An Android 4.4.3 update is almost certainly on the way, although we’re not quite sure when, as references to the new version of Android have cropped up yet again.

The most recent sighting comes as an Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition smartphone passed through Bluetooth SIG certification. The listing comes with a new software version for the handset labelled “KTU72.S1.3013″, the KTU72 bit is the build name for Android 4.4.3. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth listing can’t tell us when the update will arrive, but it’s a pretty good sign that it’s on the way.

Following that, Google itself let the update slip in a change log for its Edu Device Setup app on the Play Store. Under the “what’s new” section, the app lists “support for Android 4.4.3 and non-Nexus tablets”. Hopefully this means that Google is preparing to ship the update anytime soon, and that it’s not just an innocent type.

We first heard mention of the update back in March, where we received the first hint that a 4.4.3 update might be on the way to fix the Nexus 5 camera bug. More recently, just last week Sprint suggested that the update would be rolling out immediately, although that doesn’t seem to have materialized yet.

Evidence is mounting that Android 4.4.3 is on the way, but the big question still is when.

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Adjustable depth of field effects are hot new camera features included in both the new Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8. If you don’t fancy buying a new handset, the newly released Google Camera App includes a similar feature as well. Depth of field is great for adding some additional “pop” to your pictures, bringing smartphone cameras one feature closer to their SLR cousins.

For a little background, Google’s Lens Blur allows you to change the point or level of focus of a picture even after the photo has been taken, in a similar way to Samsung’s Selective Focus mode in the GS5. Tapping on a part of the image adjusts the focal point, whilst a slider is used to adjust the strength of the effect in real time. If you’d like to know how Google’s software based Lens Blur effect works, then read on.

As the app is used on devices that only have a single camera, the first step is to capture multiple images from ever so slightly different positions as a basis to begin collecting depth information. Instead of capturing a single photo, you move the camera in an upward sweep to capture a whole series of frames. From these images, the software creates a virtual 3D model of the scene by cross references pixels from the image series.

structure from motion

3D models can be created from images captured from multiple positions. Although with smartphones, the limited capture angle will result in a much more basic model. Source: JVRB & Nghiago

This is where things require a little trickery, as the software has to be able to identify similar features across multiple images before it can build the model. This is accomplished by tracking specific points with algorithms known as Structure-from-Motion (SfM) and bundle adjustment.

Volumetric Stereo

Pixel positioning can be tracked between the newly created 3D model and initial images, in order to track distances and visibility between parts of the scene. Source: UNC

From this 3D depth model, Google employs Multi-View-Stereo algorithms to calculate the approximate distances between points in the scene, which is used to form a depth map. Points of references are figured out using the Sum of Absolute Differences (SAD) of the RGB values of the image’s pixels. In other words, the differences in color between a group of pixels creates a unique identifier which can be found over and over again in different images for a point of reference. To speed up and optimise the process, points of reference are taken from different parts of the images, as pixels close together are quite likely to have very similar depths.

In the end, this works in a very similar way to the human eye, where we can work out the distance of an object by viewing it from two slightly different angles. The image below shows an example of finalized depth information calculated by the app.


Having computed the depth map, it’s then just a case of blurring pixels of similar depth to give the desired focal point. As various points of reference are now stored for the image, the distance information can be recalled if the user wants to adjust the focal point or level of blur.

There’s a lot of math and coding behind all this, but the results really speak for themselves.

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UK supermarket Tesco has a sweet deal for anyone looking for a brand new Android tablet. The white LG G-Pad is now available for just £119, part of the supermarket’s Easter Deals. That’s a massive saving of £130 for an 8-inch tablet with a quad-core chip and 16GB internal storage. While it’s the Wi-Fi model, we’re still filing this under “awesome deals”. Be quick though, it only runs until Tuesday.

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