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Apple’s iOS 14 is full of new features, but some of the best gems are the ones in obscure places. Learn about the best hidden features in iOS 14 and how to use them on your iPhone and iPad.

Image: CNET

When Apple’s iOS 14 was released last week, many users and developers were surprised by the next-day availability. iOS 14 includes big changes that will forever change the way we use our iOS devices: From the widgets on the Home Screen, to the App Library, to the new automations in Shortcuts, iOS is clearly moving at a fast pace and bringing many new headlining features. Read about the best iOS 14 hidden features that many users skip over. 

SEE: Apple iPadOS: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Listen for sounds

One accessibility feature that Apple added to iOS 14 was the ability for your iPhone to listen for particular sounds and then alert you whenever it encounters them. This feature is fantastic for hard of hearing or deaf users who need assistance in identifying when the door bell rings, an animal makes a noise, etc.

To enable this feature, perform the following steps: 

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Accessibility | Sound Recognition.
  3. Select the toggle to ON.
  4. Select Sounds.
  5. Toggle on the sounds that you’d like your device to recognize and alert you to (Figure A).

Figure A

ios14-hidden-features-figure-a.jpg

Your iPhone can recognize multiple sounds on-device and alert you to them. This list of recognizable sounds will grow over time.

As of iOS 14, your phone can do on-device sound recognition of four different categories of sounds: Alarms, Animals, Household, and People. This set of sounds will grow over time based on advances in machine learning and device microphones. You can enable or disable the particular individual sounds you’re concerned with.

Apple notes that, with this feature enabled, your iPhone will continuously listen for sounds using on-device intelligence and notify you when the sounds are recognized. Because of this your battery life may take a slight hit, and this will also utilize on-device storage to process the sounds.

In addition, Apple notes that this shouldn’t be relied upon for emergency situations or navigation.

SEE: How to use widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 (TechRepublic)

New color picker

There’s a new color picker that you will encounter in both Apple and third-party apps that brings about a new way on iOS to select colors that we’re excited about. If you’ve spent any time in macOS, you’ve undoubtedly encounter the macOS Digital Color Meter that’s available systemwide. Apple now has a new color picker on iOS 14 that brings a few new ways of selecting colors, and saving them.

We’ll show how to do this in Notes, but the feature is also available in other apps. In Notes, select the drawing tool, then select the color picker icon. When you do this, the new color picker will appear (Figure B). 

Figure B

ios14-hidden-features-figure-b.jpg

The new iOS 14 color picker brings the same tools from macOS to iOS for picking colors.

The first section you’ll encounter is a standard color grid which shows a few hues to let you quickly pick a color. The next tab is the Spectrum, which lets you get more fine-grained control over every color available to pick on the device and it’s opacity. The last tab is Sliders, which we’re very excited about. This view lets you pick or enter RGB values, or a hex value to set the color—a feature that hasn’t been available on iOS except in speciality apps before.

SEE: iOS 14 App Library: How to use it on your iPhone (TechRepublic)

Lastly, you’ll notice the custom palette organizer at the bottom of the color picker. In this section, you can save your favorite colors by tapping the + button, or tap and hold on any of them to delete them. You can save up to 10 colors in this section for easily switching between apps, or projects.

Hide the Hidden Photos album

The Hidden photo album has been available in the Photos app for years, but it has been far from hidden on iOS devices. Rather, it was a folder called Hidden that just stored photos you didn’t want visible in your main Photo library. Now you can also hide this folder so that the hidden photos are truly hidden.

To do this, perform these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Navigate to Photos.
  3. Scroll near the bottom, and disable the toggle for Hidden Album.

With this option deselected, the Hidden album will no longer appear in the Albums tab of Photos. To show it again, re-enable the toggle. 

Dictation shortcut

On iPadOS 14, there’s a new way to assign a keyboard shortcut for text dictation. This lets you easily still use dictation even when an external keyboard is attached without the need to use the on-screen controls for dictation.

To enable this feature, perform these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Navigate to General | Keyboard | Dictation Shortcut.
  3. Select an available Shortcut (Figure C).

Figure C

ios14-hidden-features-figure-c.jpg

Selecting a dictation shortcut will let you easily double-tap the selected button on a hardware keyboard to start the dictation process without needing to use the on-screen controls.

The available shortcuts are either Control or Command. Select one or the other, then activate by quickly double-pressing the selected shortcut when your cursor is in a text field.

Hide Home Screens

Apple introduced the App Library for iPhone, and it allows a lot of customization and cleanup for iOS Home Screens for the first time in the history of the iPhone. You can still have multiple Home Screens in iOS 14, but sometimes you may want to disable messy Home Screens or Home Screens of apps that you don’t access frequently.

To disable a Home Screen on your iPhone:

  1. Tap and hold on the Home Screen to enter jiggle mode.
  2. Tap the dots denoting page numbers. 
  3. Tap the checkmark under the Home Screen to remove it, tap again to add it back (Figure D).

Figure D 

ios14-hidden-features-figure-d.jpg

Hiding Home Screens allows users to clean up their icons and hide pages of apps that aren’t always needed.

Select Done when finished and your changes will be saved. Any hidden pages will be skipped over when swiping left or right between Home Screens.

Back tap gesture

If you have an iPhone 8 or newer, then we saved the best feature for last in this tip lineup. That’s because the back tap feature is one of those hidden gems that will change your digital life once you’ve implemented it.

SEE: Apple releases iOS 14 without this privacy feature: What iPhone users and developers need to know (TechRepublic)

With this feature, you can assign a double- or triple-tap gesture to the back of your iPhone. When you tap the back of the device with your finger twice or three times, it can perform an action that you assign. Yes, you read that right, you can perform an action by just tapping the back of your iPhone with your finger, and it even works with a case.

To set up this feature:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Navigate to Accessibility | Touch | Back Tap.
  3. Select Double Tap or Triple Tap to set up actions for one or both.
  4. Select an action (Figure E).

Figure E

ios14-hidden-features-figure-e.jpg

Myriad shortcuts are available to the back tap feature. You can even launch an app through a Shortcuts workflow.

There are many system, accessibility, scroll, and even app shortcuts available–you can even create your own Shortcut workflows and assign them to a double- or triple-tap gesture. The possibilities are limitless when it comes to assigning actions for this feature. 

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Tenet, Durgamati, Coolie No. 1, and More: December 2020 Guide to Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+ Hotstar

wonder woman coolie no 1 tenet dec 2020 1606481509338

December may be the final month of the year, but it’s going to have a lot of firsts too. Netflix’s first animated movie from India; Apple TV+’s first animated feature film; George Clooney’s first movie in four years; David Fincher’s first movie in six years; Shonda Rhimes’ first series at Netflix; and lastly, Wonder Woman 1984 day-and-date on HBO Max and in cinemas — a first for a superhero movie of this size. WW84 will be in theatres in India too, as will Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, but that is not a good option, unless you’re assured that you’ll be alone (or have enough money to book out the hall for yourself). Thankfully, Tenet is coming home too in December, though you’ll have to pay for the Blu-ray or pick it up digitally on an international platform.

That’s not all in December. In contrast to the many firsts, we’ll get Chadwick Boseman’s final movie too. Elsewhere, we’ll be treated to new movies and series featuring the likes of Bryan Cranston, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Tina Fey, Sanjay Dutt, Gary Oldman, Alexander Skarsgård, Varun Dhawan, and Sara Ali Khan. With that, here’s our November 2020 guide to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, Apple TV+, Voot Select, HBO Max, and other digital platforms.

Bhaag Beanie Bhaag

When: December 4
Where: Netflix

Say hello to India’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Two Indian-Americans, Ravi Patel (Meet the Patels) and Neel Shah (The Bold Type), are behind this comedy series, in which a privileged woman (Swara Bhasker) fearful of settling down runs away from her marriage and decides to pursue stand-up in her new life. She promptly fails but then begins to put in the work, with help from a fellow comic (Patel, who’s also acting in the series), and stands up to her alarmed parents. All episodes on release date.

Bombay Rose

When: December 4
Where: Netflix

The first animated effort to come from Netflix India — it premièred at Venice Film Festival last year — has been made using pain-staking traditional animation techniques. Director Gitanjali Rao’s debut feature Bombay Rose is an ode to both Bollywood the city of Bombay, through the lens of a former club dancer looking after a kid, a Kashmiri orphan scrapping a living on the streets, and an elderly woman lost in the memories of a lost love.

Anurag Kashyap is among the producers.

Netflix Wants to Make More Animated Movies Than Hollywood’s Biggest Studios

Mank

When: December 4
Where: Netflix

David Fincher returns with his first feature film in six years — Gone Girl was the last one — that is about the writer Herman J. Mankiewicz who wrote Citizen Kane, considered by some to be the greatest movie of all time. Mank chronicles that chapter of his life, and his conflicts with Orson Welles during filming and leading up to release. And oh, it’s all in black and white.

Gary Oldman plays Mankiewicz, Tom Burke is Welles, Amanda Seyfried is Marion Davies, Lilly Collins plays Mankiewicz’s secretary, Arliss Howard is MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer, and Charles Dance is William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for Citizen Kane’s lead character.

Mulan

When: December 4
Where: Disney+ Hotstar

Three months after it was made available for a premium fee (around $30) in addition to the subscription value of Disney+, the live-action reimagining of the 1998 animated original can be streamed by everyone on Disney+. That also means it will be available on Disney+ Hotstar, in English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Mulan has been embroiled in multiple controversies, and the film failed to make an impact at the Chinese box office, as Disney had hoped.

The story is the same as the original: the titular young woman takes her ailing father’s place in the Imperial Army, disguising herself as a man. But Mulan adds a new female character Xianniang (Gong Li), who works for the heroine’s enemies and serves as a mirror of sorts to our protagonist.

Watch the First Five Minutes of Mulan

Your Honor

When: December 7
Where: Voot Select

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston leads this American remake of the Israeli TV series Kvodo, created by Ron Ninio and Shlomo Mashiach, in which a respected judge will do anything to protect his son (Hunter Doohan) who is involved in a hit-and-run accident. (Your Honor was also the title of a recent Indian remake on SonyLIV, led by Jimmy Sheirgill.) This one has better pedigree, with The Good Fight creators Robert King and Michelle King involved as executive producers, and Peter Moffat (UK’s Criminal Justice) as writer and showrunner.

Michael Stuhlbarg, Hope Davis, Carmen Ejogo, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire), Sofia Black-D’Elia (The Night Of), Amy Landecker (Transparent), Lorraine Toussaint (Orange Is the New Black), and Chet Hanks (Empire) co-star in Your Honor. One episode weekly.

Durgamati (previously Durgavati)

When: December 11
Where: Amazon Prime Video

Bhumi Pednekar plays wronged IAS officer Chanchal Chauhan, who is roped in to frame a corrupt and squeaky-clean politician (Arshad Warsi), but events take a supernatural turn after the ghost of goddess Durga seemingly takes over Chanchal’s body — with vengeance on her mind and an agenda of her own. A remake of writer-director G. Ashok’s 2018 Telugu-language film Bhaagamathie.

Akshay Kumar is among the producers.

Durgamati, Chhalaang, Coolie No. 1 Part of Amazon Prime Video’s New Indian Film Slate

The Prom

When: December 11
Where: Netflix

Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Ariana DeBose, and Kerry Washington lead the ensemble cast of prolific television producer Ryan Murphy’s next movie, that is based on the 2018 Broadway musical of the same name. In it, two Broadway stars (Streep and Corden) attempt to infuse life into their careers by helping a female high school student go to the prom with her girlfriend.

Torbaaz

When: December 11
Where: Netflix

In a plot no one could have seen coming, Sanjay Dutt will use cricket to save Afghani children from becoming suicide bombers in this drama directed by Girish Malik (2013’s Jal) that was filmed in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. If the cringey over-the-top trailer is anything to go by, Torbaaz looks destined to sink like so many Netflix Indian films have done so in 2020. Nargis Fakhri, Rahul Dev, Gavie Chahal, Pransh Chopra, and Rahul Mittra are along for the ride.

Wolfwalkers

When: December 11
Where: Apple TV+

Judging by early reviews, Apple seems to have a serious shot at an Oscar nomination for best animated picture with this thematic trilogy-concluding chapter — after The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, part of the so-called Irish folklore trilogy — from Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore. In Wolfwalkers, a young female hunter befriends a wildling girl whose tribe is rumoured to transform into wolves after dark.

Tenet

When: December 15
Where: Blu-ray, digital outside India

Christopher Nolan’s latest film arrives in Indian cinemas on December 4, but if you’re not comfortable stepping into an indoor AC environment with strangers — understandably — or Tenet is not playing in theatres near you, then your next best option is this. Tenet will be available on Blu-ray and digital platforms (the likes of iTunes and Google Play) outside India, and though it’s a pricier way to watch the film, you can’t put a value on not contracting COVID.

In the interest of not spoiling anything, I’m not going to talk about the premise—who am I kidding, the trailers don’t tell us anything. Except that Tenet involves time inversion, and that our protagonist, played by John David Washington, is tasked with saving the world. And oh, Bollywood veteran Dimple Kapadia has a role to play in the proceedings too.

Watch the Final Trailer for Tenet

The Expanse

When: December 16
Where: Amazon Prime Video

The sci-fi series that gets the science right returns for its fifth and penultimate season — The Expanse was recently renewed for a sixth and final season, minus one cast member who’s been fired over sexual misconduct — which finds the Belters vowing vengeance for the centuries of exploitation they have had to endure, at the hands of “the inners”: those who live on Earth and Mars. Meanwhile, a Solar System exodus begins as people look for new homes beyond the Ring.

Three episodes at launch, one episode weekly thereafter until February 3, 2021.

The Stand

When: December 18
Where: Voot Select

Stephen King has penned a new ending for the second adaptation of his 1978 apocalyptic novel that takes place during an influenza pandemic — coincidental, as the series was conceptualised and completed filming prior to COVID-19 — and centers on one of the only surviving groups, as they go up against the Dark Man (Alexander Skarsgård), with a “lethal smile and unspeakable powers.” James Marsden, Amber Heard, Greg Kinnear, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ezra Miller co-star.

Josh Boone (The New Mutants, The Fault in Our Stars) is a co-creator, and has written and directed multiple episodes of nine-episode The Stand miniseries. One episode weekly until February 11, 2021.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

When: December 18
Where: Netflix

Chadwick Boseman’s final posthumous performance comes as a trumpeter in late 1920s Chicago, a time when white managers and producers reigned over black recording artists, even those as famous as the Mother of the Blues Ma Rainey (Viola Davis). Based on August Wilson’s 1982 play of the same name, the film explores issues of race and art over the course of a single afternoon, as tempers rise inside a recording studio.

The Midnight Sky

When: December 23
Where: Netflix

George Clooney directs and stars in this sci-fi film that’s being described as some by Gravity meets The Revenant. Those comparisons are somewhat reinforced by the fact that The Revenant co-writer Mark L. Smith wrote The Midnight Sky. Based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s “Good Morning, Midnight”, it follows a lonely scientist (Clooney) as he must trek across the Arctic in an attempt to stop astronauts (Felicity Jones among them) from returning to Earth, which is in the grip of a mysterious global catastrophe. No, it’s not COVID-19.

Bridgerton

When: December 25
Where: Netflix

What would Gossip Girl look like if it took place in Downton Abbey? Well, Shonda Rhimes is about to tell us with her first Netflix series. Set in London in the 1810s and based on Julia Quinn’s novel series, Bridgerton follows the aristocratic, elite, and wealthy whose lives are punctured by a Lady Whistledown, who promises to “share every last detail” of the scandals she uncovers. This is early 19th century after all, and without the Internet, you’ve to understand that people are lacking in entertainment. Chris Van Dusen (Scandal) is the creator and showrunner.

Coolie No. 1

When: December 25
Where: Amazon Prime Video

Twenty-five years afer the original, director David Dhawan is remaking his own film — which was itself a remake of the Tamil-language film Chinna Mapillai — with his son Varun Dhawan taking over from Govinda, and Sara Ali Khan filling in for her step-aunt Karisma Kapoor in the lead. It’s the classic working-class guy wants to marry a rich woman plot, except it’s treated as a comedy with the porter pretending to be a rich man himself.

Durgamati, Chhalaang, Coolie No. 1 Part of Amazon Prime Video’s New Indian Film Slate

Soul

When: December 25
Where: Disney+ Hotstar

Pixar’s newest movie takes place in the chronological opposite of Heaven (known here as The Great Beyond). No, not Hell — but the place before life begins. It’s called The Great Before, and it’s where souls get their personalities before they inhabit bodies down on Earth. Hence, “Soul.” The film follows a middle-school music teacher who inadvertently ends up in The Great Before, and then sets out on an impossible journey to return to his body before a big career opportunity passes him by.

Originally meant for theatres, but thanks to COVID-19, Soul is now going straight to Disney+ Hotstar. Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett are part of the Soul voice cast, with the duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composing the score.

Wonder Woman 1984

When: December 25
Where: HBO Max

The Gal Gadot-led Wonder Woman sequel will be available in Indian cinemas on Christmas too, but if you don’t feel comfortable going to a theatre, but are willing to put up with a VPN and a pricey HBO Max subscription — really, I’m talking about myself here — then the next major DC superhero movie is coming straight to your home.

Expectations are riding high, given the original Wonder Woman was — and remains — DC’s best effort to date. As the title says, the sequel takes place during the Cold War era, and finds Wonder Woman confronting Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), and her former lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Patty Jenkins returns as director.

Watch the Wonder Woman 1984 Trailer in English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu

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Xbox Series X restock for Cyber Monday: Where to buy the next-gen gaming system

xbox series

Cyber Monday is the next opportunity to score the in-demand Xbox Series X. Here’s when and where to find it at Target, Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon.

Image: Microsoft

Cyber Monday will offer new opportunities to buy the Xbox Series X gaming system at retailers in person and online. Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop are some of the key retailers that have been restocking the next-gen gaming console.

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, which costs $500 and looks something like a skyscraper, debuted on Nov. 10 along with the $300 Xbox Series S, but it’s been in such high demand that it’s nearly impossible to snag a unit. Priced at $500, the Series X is the first major Xbox release since the Xbox One in 2013. Gamers are anxious to nab the Xbox Series X, because it’s new with blistering fast performance and load times, and an amazing frame rate. It can run games at 120 frames per second (fps), which is about double what the Xbox One could do. This kind of refresh rate makes games look unbelievably clear and also reduces any chances for motion sickness that some people experience when gaming with lower refresh rates.

When the Xbox Series X debuted, it was offered both in person and online, unlike the PS5, which was only sold online on its first day. But that hasn’t made it any easier to buy an Xbox. 

SEE: Guide to becoming a digital transformation champion (TechRepublic Premium)

Where to buy the Xbox Series X on Cyber Monday

Many retailers offered some stock on Black Friday, but are likely holding back additional restock units for Cyber Monday. This is the time to keep your finger on the refresh button and try to score a unit. Checking at unusual times such as 12:01 am and early in the morning around 4 am and 5 am seem to be fruitful. Because really, who needs sleep when it comes to buying a holiday gift, right?

At Best Buy, the Xbox Series X has been available periodically, and on Nov. 28, there were some units available, but for in-store purchases only. The retailer is also offering various bundles with additional games and accessories, such as one with the Xbox Series X with the Halo Infinite game for $560, or with the Xbox Series X console, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate 3-month membership, a controller and a 1TB SSD Seagate storage expansion card for $783, or another with the Xbox Series X console, a $100 Xbox gift card and the 1TB SSD Seagate storage expansion card for $810, and a bundle with the Xbox Series X console and the Cyberpunk 2077 game for $560. Keep in mind that Best Buy is one of the retailers that likes to restock at midnight. 

On Twitter, some people reported that Walmart offered in-person stock of Xbox and PS5 for people shopping at the store, but it hasn’t been confirmed by Walmart. 

Amazon has offered the Xbox Series X for sale, but it’s the first place many people look, so it’s one of the toughest places to get lucky. 

GameStop has offered the Xbox Series X at regular intervals, and will likely restock on Cyber Monday. GameStop often bundles the Xbox and the PS5 with games and accessories such as headsets, so search for bundles as well as individual units. 

Target is offering online sales and curbside and in-store pickup of the Xbox. Refresh the page frequently to see if your regional stores have available inventory.

This article is being regularly updated with the latest information on Xbox Series X sales.

Also see

  • Raspberry Pi: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
  • Technology in education: The latest products and trends (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
  • How to securely erase hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) (ZDNet)
  • Gift Guides for Techies (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

  • PS5 restock for Cyber Monday: When and where to buy the next-gen gaming console

    (TechRepublic)

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    Deep Smartphone Sensors-WiFi Fusion for Indoor Positioning and Tracking

    wifi smartphone

    While outdoor navigation services are widespread, there is no reliable and universal service for indoor positioning. A recent approach to tackle this problem has been recently published on arXiv.org. It employs a number of different sensors of a smartphone. Network sensors and observed landmarks allow estimating an absolute position. Then, motion and position sensors, such as accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, are used to estimate user displacement (an approach known as Pedestrian Dead Reckoning, PDR).

    Image credit: Mohammed Hassan via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

    Image credit: Mohammed Hassan via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

    A novelty of this paper is applying a deep learning approach to PDR. Convolutional and recurrent networks extract hidden correlations between different sensors, thus allowing them to cope with sensor noise. Moreover, barometer data is used to recognize the floor change. The system outperforms the International Conference on Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation challenge winner’s performance by a wide margin.

    We address the indoor localization problem, where the goal is to predict user’s trajectory from the data collected by their smartphone, using inertial sensors such as accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, as well as other environment and network sensors such as barometer and WiFi. Our system implements a deep learning based pedestrian dead reckoning (deep PDR) model that provides a high-rate estimation of the relative position of the user. Using Kalman Filter, we correct the PDR’s drift using WiFi that provides a prediction of the user’s absolute position each time a WiFi scan is received. Finally, we adjust Kalman Filter results with a map-free projection method that takes into account the physical constraints of the environment (corridors, doors, etc.) and projects the prediction on the possible walkable paths. We test our pipeline on IPIN’19 Indoor Localization challenge dataset and demonstrate that it improves the winner’s results by 20% using the challenge evaluation protocol.

    Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2011.10799




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