Snapchat Ramps Up Messaging Service With ‘Chat 2.0’

Snapchat Ramps Up Messaging Service With 'Chat 2.0'

Snapchat is dressing up its messaging with an upgraded video chat and animations, part of the social network’s efforts to be the preferred service for young users.

“We’re excited to introduce Chat 2.0,” the California startup announced on its blog Tuesday.

“You can start by sending a few chats, and when your friend shows up, start talking or video chatting instantly with one tap,” it said.

“Your friend can simply listen if you want to sing them a song, or watch if you have a new puppy to show them.”

The new chat platform aims for improved video chat with new features such as sending an audio note or a “sticker” chosen from a range of images similar to those on Facebook’s Messenger app.

First gaining notoriety for its disappearing messages, Snapchat has been growing rapidly to a base of some 100 million, with particular appeal to young users, as it expands its partnerships with various media organizations.

The Los Angeles-based company, which reportedly turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook in 2013, was valued at more than $15 billion (roughly Rs. 99,631 crores) in its latest funding round.

But it is facing competition from Facebook and others seeking to be the preferred messaging platform – that can draw users into more services and open up possibilities for advertisers.

“What we love most about the new Chat is how easily you can transition between all these ways of communicating – just like you do in person,” the Snapchat team said on the blog.

“When that’s possible, you aren’t texting, calling, or video chatting you’re just talking. We’ve been working on this redesign for a while we can’t wait to hear what you think!”

Retrieve Saved Documents from Hard Drives using EaseUS Data Recovery Software

Losing data from disk drives or flash drives can be a difficult experience, because in today’s technical age, everyone has a sizable digital footprint and there, our data is what defines us at a very basic level. If you lose all your data in a hard drive, while you may lament the loss of your movies or music, the fact is that they can be acquired again. What cannot be acquired at any cost are the documents and pictures that you yourself created which were stored in your device. It is the loss of this data that hurts most users the most, as it might be the product of years of hard work.

Fortunately, there have been software available on the internet for quite a while now that allow you to retrieve data from secondary storage devices that might seem like they’re gone forever. One such software that has gained excellent reviews in the recent past is EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. The software allows for a very usable and simple graphic user interface that can be used even by untrained professionals to retrieve data.

Lost data can be of various types, and the way of retrieving them varies in accordance. Here are a few varieties of lost data and how they can be recovered. The good thing about word files is that they are easily recoverable, compared to, say, a large MPEG or AVI file.

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  1. Word documents saved over

This has happened to all of us at some point in life; accidentally writing over an important Microsoft word document and saving it, and then realizing that the information in the original file is gone. You’ll be pleased to know that EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard has a simple mechanism which, when utilized, can recover word document saved over.

  1. Recover files from flash drive

If you are in the habit of storing your documents in a flash drive instead of a hard disk drive – indeed, many of us prefer this as a medium, since it’s more portable and allows us to access our data from various sources. However, given how prone they are to viruses and corrupt drivers, everyone who uses a flash drive has faced data loss at some point. The EaseUS data recovery software allows you to recover files from flash drive, not just from hard drives. This is a rare functionality, since flash and magnetic storage are completely different devices for memory storage.

To go a bit further on recovering your files from a flash drive, the process is quite simple and easily done. You simply have to insert your flash memory in a USB socket on your computer; now, whether you lost your data because of a formatting or an accidental deletion or a virus infection, chances are that your data is still there, with just the memory code tables being deleted. With EaseUS, USB data recovery is simple and efficient and can be done at the expense of a few clicks. A basic version of the software is available for free.

Evernote Says India User Base Crosses 5 Million Mark; Among Top 5 Markets

Cross platform note-taking app Evernote on Monday said it has crossed the five-million user mark in India, making it the fifth largest market for the US-based firm.

At the end of February 2013, the company had announced reaching the one-million user mark in India.

“The rate at which Evernote has grown in the last few years is a strong testament to Evernote’s fit with the Indian market. We are certain that the Indian market will continue to experience massive growth in the coming years,” Evernote General Manager Asia Pacific Troy Malone said.

Founded in 2007, Evernote is privately-held company headquartered in Redwood City, California with nearly 400 employees. Its products reach more than 100 million users worldwide.

The company said India is among the top four countries with exponential new user acquisition rates, along with the US, Brazil, and China.

India ranks number five in terms of total user base. The US ranks as the top market for Evernote with 25 million users, followed by China (17 million), Taiwan (7 million), Brazil (6 million) and India (5 million).

“Our new users have increased by 3,000 percent between December 2014 and September 2015. Evernote users in India are growing rapidly and we expect to meet our next five million users in record time as well. We see great potential in the country moving forward,” it added.

Maharashtra (24.42 percent), Karnataka (20.28 percent) and Delhi (20.25 percent) regions recorded top user activity on average, the company said.

Photoshop editing tips for portraits: How to make a snapshot look professional

adobe photoshop logoWhen your boss asked you to crop and size a photo of the new CFO like a “professional studio portrait” for corporate documents, you did it successfully. And here’s your thanks: “Looks good, but now I want you to remove that busy background and replace it with something cleaner, like in photography studios.”

01 photoshop cropped photoJD SARTAIN
Original photo plus edited photo cropped and sized.

No problem. We’ll try some different canvas-style backgrounds, then let the boss choose. Remember, always work with the original 300 pixels per inch (ppi) image photo that you cropped last week, before it was sized and resampled. Open that file now.

1. Use the Magic Wand tool and click the background area. Because there are multiple objects and colors in this background, one click won’t be enough. Hold down the Shift key to “extend” the selected area, and continue clicking the Magic Wand in different places until the entire background is selected. If the selected area creeps over onto your man’s suit, hair, or face, just click Undo, then use the Magic Wand in another area.

2. Once most of the background is selected, use the Polygonal Lasso to select the rest. Remember to press the Shift key to extend the selected area. The Polygonal Lasso is the easiest of the three Lasso tools. Just drag the cursor around an object, then click to stop, and drag again. This allows for very precise object selection.

3. Once the entire background is selected, Zoom in for a closer look. Notice that the selection is not quite aligned perfectly with the man’s hair, suit, face, and neck. To save time, let Photoshop do the rest. From the main menu, choose Select > Modify > Expand. In the Expand dialog box, enter the number 1 (to expand the selected area by one pixel), then click OK.

02 select the background then expand itJD SARTAIN
Select the background, then expand it.

Notice in the image below how the selected area expands to include a closer, more precise selection around the man.

Before you do anything else, save this selection so you can use it later. From the main menu, choose Select > Save Selection. In the Save Selection dialog box, choose New for the Channel, then enter a descriptive name for this selected area (I use BKG for photo backgrounds). Ensure that the New Channel button is checked under Operation, then click OK.

Note: If this area is deselected for some reason, or you want to make changes to the background area later, you can choose Select > Load Selection, and click your saved area (BKG) from the Channel list. Photoshop reselects the exact area for you, so you can reuse it.

03 save the selected backgroundJD SARTAIN
Save the selected background to use later.

4. The first thing you must do is either cut out or blur out that busy, cityscape background. The easiest, quickest method, which also looks quite professional, is to blur it out using the Gaussian Blur effect. Ensure the background is selected (if not, choose Select >Load Selection) and click BKG (the name used for the background selection).

5. Next, select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, slide the Radius button all the way to the right or type 250.0 (pixels) in the Radius field box. Notice how the background blurs to a smooth, slightly gradient finish.

04 use gaussian blur for a portrait backgroundJD SARTAIN
Use Gaussian Blur for a professional portrait-style background.

6. If the Gaussian background isn’t quite enough, try a canvas background next; however, do not undo the Gaussian Blur effect, or the previous, busy cityscape will show through the canvas texture.

7. For canvas, select the background again, then choose Filter > Texture > Texturizer. In the Texturizer dialog box, select Canvas from the Texture field box, then move the slider until you get a nice effect. Notice the other texture options. Next, move the Relief slider to alter the depth of the canvas texture, then choose a Light Direction from the list. Because the Preview window shows every change you make, play around with the settings until you get the effect that works best. Click OK, and it’s finished.

05 try a canvas textured backgroundJD SARTAIN
Try a canvas-textured background.

8. In Photoshop, the options for backgrounds are endless. You can create your own textures; or use gradients, styles, or even the backgrounds of other photos. The photo portraits in the following image have four different backgrounds. The first portrait uses a blue-and-white gradient background. The second portrait has a wood-textured background. The third portrait uses a Layer Style for that soft-green highlights background. The background of the fourth photo is another photograph of a midnight sky with stars and the bright glow of the moon.

06 4 backgrounds

Four mega popular messaging apps you’ve probably never heard of

In the past few years standard messaging has gone out of style, with billions of people around the word migrating to alternate instant messenger apps.

Facebook rules the roost in western countries, with the two most widely used apps both owned by the social media giant: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in June that the site’s Messenger app had 700 million active users, up from 600 million just 3 months prior. Meanwhile, WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased for $16 billion last February, recently reported a mind-boggling 900 million monthly active users.

But the thing with messaging apps in the west is that they’re just not that different to one another. WhatsApp essentially offers the same suite of services as its less popular competitors Viber and Kik — the only real motivation to download a certain app is the number of your friends who use it.

It’s not quite the same in China, Japan, South Korea and India. Each country has its own wildly popular messenger apps, each with distinguishing features.

WeChat

China’s WeChat and its social media marketplace

Tencent’s WeChat messenger has over 500 million monthly active users, with about 85 percent of that number in China. It features a solid list of functions, including location sharing and smartwatch compatibility, but the one feature that makes it unique is called weishang.

Weishang, which translates roughly to microbusiness, allows users to sell goods and services to their contact list, advertising them through the app’s Moments status update function. Imagine WhatsApp mixed with Craigslist.

Unsurprisingly, though perhaps a little ironically, the microbusiness platform has attracted the attention of mega businesses.

In July, Chinese home appliance giant Haier experimented by recruiting 30,000 people to sell its products through WeChat. Earlier this month a Haier executive announced that it hopes to have no less than one million vendors on the platform in 2016,according to the South China Morning Post.

Nimbuzz

India’s Nimbuzz

Nimbuzz, India’s most widely used messenger, is distinguished by a simple feature that’s surprisingly rare in the instant messenger marketplace.

Developed by Dutch-owned, but India-operated Nimbuzz BV, the app allows its users to communicate across messenger apps. Though direct competitors like WhatsApp or Viber aren’t compatible, Nimbuzz users can message their friends across platforms like Facebook Messenger, Google Plus and Windows Live Messenger.

The app is also popular in India thanks to its discounted international voice calling rates. Its userbase was numbered at around 150 million in 2013, but has been growing alongside the developing smartphone market in the country — last year Nimbuzz’s CEO told The Next Web there were 210,000 new signups per day.

Line

Japan’s Line messenger’s sticker level is over 9000 (literally)

Line was created by NHN Japan, a subsidiary of South Korean tech company Naver. The app’s creation was necessitated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, with NHN Japan’s employees developing Line to communicate with each other following the ravaging of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.

The app was released to the public later that year and now, just four years on, it has been downloaded by over 600 million people.

The hallmark of the messenger app is the ridiculous quantity of its stickers. Line is decked out with over 10,000 emoticon options, for all your emotive needs. For comparison, there are roughly 900 emojis available — though they’re often not all usable on the same device.

To compliment the sea of ideograms and smiley faces, Line features a strong suggestive sticker keyboard. For instance, if you type in “dog” you’ll be hit with three pages of different canine emoticons.

The caveat is that many of the 10,000 stickers need to be downloaded in packs, and some of them need to be paid for. But even then… 10,000!

Kakao

South Korea’s KakaoTalk

South Koreans like to keep things local. Local companies Samsung and LG are two of the three most popular handset creators in the country, and Kaokao Talk, developed by Seoul-based Kakao Inc, at last count was used by 93 percent of South Korea’s smartphone users.

And there’s good reason too, as the app is one of the world’s most robust messengers. In addition to the standard messaging and voice call capabilities, the app is open source, allowing for users to make creative and unique themes for themselves and others.

Another simple, yet surprisingly rare, function is the ability to create events within the app. Coordinating events with your friends is a huge part of Facebook’s appeal and the reason why many people struggle to extricate themselves from the social network.

Another social media-like feature of KakaoTalk is the ability to buy real-world gifts for your friends. You can buy vouchers for food, services and products at cooperating companies, the list of which has steadily grown with the popularity of the app.

All of these apps are available for download on iOS and Android in all countries — but unfortunately some of the more interesting features, like Weishang and Kakao’s gifting, are only available in the respective app’s native country.

India Funding Roundup: Credr, ShadowFax, CanvasFlip, Zapyle, FitMeIn

Credr
Mumbai-based online second hand bike listing platform Credr raised $15 million (roughly Rs. 99 crores) in its Series A round from Eight Roads Ventures, Fidelity’s proprietary investment arm. Founded in 2014 by IIT Mumbai graduates, the online marketplace operates in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, and Bengaluru, and inspects bikes on 80 parameters, provides doorstep test drives, manages paper transfer, and offers value added services like six months warranty, 24×7 road assistance, 1-year roadside assistance, buyback services to buyers.

ShadowFax
Delhi-based hyperlocal B2B logistics startup ShadowFax has raised $8.5 million (roughly Rs. 56 crores) in a Series A round of funding from Eight Roads Ventures. Founded in 2015 by Vaibhav Khandelwal and Abhishek Bansal, the startup provides delivery solutions to local sellers, with features like API integration, pay per delivery, and real time monitoring. ShadowFax had previously raised angel funding from Kunal Bahl, Rohit Bansal, and Zishaan Hayath earlier this year.

CanvasFlip
Hyderabad-based CanvasFlip, a cloud-based platform for prototyping and testing apps raised $1.2 million (roughly Rs. 7.9 crores) in seed funding from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners. The firm counts Tech Mahindra, Paytm, Makemytrip, Redbus, Gaana and Magicbricks as clients. CanvasFlip offers a 30 day free trial, while the Premium plan starts at $25 a month.

Zapyle
Bengaluru-based Zapyle, an online marketplace for second hand apparel raised $1 million in seed funding, Vccircle reported. Founded in 2015 by Rashi Menda, the marketplace has apps for Android and iOS serving Internet-savvy women aged between 18-30. Zapyle makes 25 percent commission on the sale value. Online designer wear rental platform Klozee recently closed a seed funding round in August.

FitMeIn
Delhi-based FitMeIn, which provides a monthly membership to over 250 gyms and fitness studios in Delhi, raised $100,000 in seed funding from Green House Ventures. Fitmein provides access to activities like yoga, cardio, dance, interval training, and martial arts for a monthly membership fee, which is converted to a virtual currency called FitCoins. The company will launch its Android and iOS apps soon.

Justdial Android App Revamped With New UI, ‘Search Plus’ Features

Justdial, the Indian business search service, has updated its Android app with a fresh UI and new features it is terming as ‘Search Plus’.

“Just Dial Ltd has informed BSE that the Company has launched its latest Android App on the Google Play Store for users. The Company has also submitted its new iOS App to Apple App Store and is expected to go live shortly. Just Dial”s new visually appealing multi-purpose Search Plus app is aimed at enhancing experience for its users by providing a one-stop online solution for a variety of user requirements pertaining to information retrieval, search and online transactions,” the listed company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

In addition to letting you search for businesses like Justdial has always been known for, the new app lets you book movie and travel tickets, let detailed information about nearby restaurants, and even lets you order food online. Some of these features have been available in earlier versions as well, but the new version 5.0 of the JD Justdial-Shop Online,Travel app for Android provides a brand new UI for all these and more.

Justdial claims the new app is faster than before in searching as well as transactions. The transactions available in the app include: booking movie tickets, ordering food, booking a table, booking a doctor appointment, cab booking, grocery shopping, booking a car test drive, ordering wine, ordering medicine, ordering flowers, AC repair services, online shopping, recharging mobiles, paying mobile/ DTH/ gas bills, booking flights, booking a hotel room.

The updated app is available for download from Google Play with the iOS version expected soon.

Picpal Lets You Take ‘Joint Selfies’ Regardless of Location

Selfie-lovers no longer need to have their friends around for a photo session, thanks to a new app that makes it possible to take joint selfies regardless of one’s location.

The new app ‘Picpal’ is developed by a Texas-based company MyndBee, co-founded by an Indian-American Mahesh Rajagopalan, and has been officially launched on iOS and Android devices.

The app makes it possible by bringing together everyone at the same time to form a selfie collage no matter where in the world you are.

Picpal users can invite up to three friends to take their selfies along with you. They will have up to 15 minutes to respond to your Picpal request and send across their selfies to you.

The selfies can be retaken or edited using the in-built tools and text can be added also.

“PicPal combines social media, real-time collages, and the ever important selfie into one App,” Myndbee said.

“Social networking has revolutionised the way we document our lives. Picpal expands the horizon of these social documentation possibilities,” Rajagopalan said.

He said that Picpal takes the user away from passive interactions such as sharing, liking and commenting and makes a more engaging experience.

“With Picpal, we’ve created an authentic experience, connecting friends and families more intimately in real-time, no matter where they are,” he added.

The app will compile all the selfies together into a single collage that will appear in your Picpal gallery.

Each collage is jointly created with your friends, which can be shared within the app or on Facebook,Instagram, or WhatsApp.

Users begin by connecting to their Facebook account, and can invite friends via Facebook or text message.

Once these friends also download Picpal, the original user can invite them to one or more collage projects.

The initial user takes a selfie and the invited contacts have one day to respond with their own.

Once finished, it can be shared in the Picpal app with all the friends who can “heart” and comment on it, then upload it to either Facebook or Instagram.

This is the first app to take social sharing into the world of social content creation. It brings selfies that may seem lame at first to become creative photos and collages you can enjoy in the future as real time photos, Rajagopalan said.

However, if your friends don’t respond within an allotted time frame the collage expires.

The app is available for free on iOS and Android devices.

Wikipedia adds pop-up preview for links, tabbed browsing for Android app

wikipedia-logo

Wikipedia has released an update for Android with many new features aimed at making it easier to quickly research a topic including pop- up previews and tabbed browsing.

According to The Next Web, the update brings an article preview pop-up whenever the users tap on a link in an article. This will allow the users to start reading a fragment of information and see a few images before deciding if they want to read the whole article.

Also, the app now supports tabbed browsing, so the users can start different research threads without losing track of anything. The users just have to long press the link to open a link in a new tab.

In addition, there is a quick language switcher button that appears to the right of the search bar when the users have tapped in the ‘Search Wikipedia’ box.

The Wikimedia Foundation says that it will bring the preview feature to its iOS app soon and they are exploring mobile Web options.

Angry Birds Creator Launches Candy Crush Clone ‘Nibblers’ for Android and iOS

We don’t remember a time when Rovio was not in the news. Aside from laying off 260 employees, IPO concerns, and well, launching Angry Birds 2 to a mixed response, the company’s latest attempt at catching on the Candy Crush Saga hype train is alive and well. Dubbed Nibblers, it’s a match-3 game that has you donning the role of fishes hunting down fruits like oranges, pears, plums, and bananas, as well as avoiding lizards. It’s on the App Store and Google Play.

(Also see: I Hate Angry Birds 2 – and I’m Addicted to It)

And much like Candy Crush Saga, it’s free with in-app purchases. You can buy extra moves and characters and the microtransactions range from Rs. 73.42 to Rs. 2,965.77 according to its listing onGoogle Play. Much like Angry Birds 2, don’t be surprised to see video ads make an appearance wherein the game offers you free items in exchange for you watching it.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t Rovio’s first attempt at trying to find some traction in the match-3 space. Earlier it partnered with developer Magic Tavern through its Rovio Stars publishing program to release Jolly Jam. This time around it’s trying its luck with a game that’s been developed in-house as a completely new IP.

(Also see: Angry Birds Creator Rovio Appoints New India Boss)

“We’re thrilled to bring a completely new IP to the mobile gaming scene,” said Heini Kaihu, Head of Studio at Rovio in a prepared statement. “Nibblers may be newly evolved creatures, but fans of our other games will recognize the Rovio touches – strong characters, beautiful visuals, and a lush soundtrack recorded with live orchestra and soloists. This will be a game you want to return to again and again.”

We hope so for Rovio’s sake that players do return again and again. The mobile gaming space has seen its fair share of turbulence in the last few months, impacting local business units in India as well, most notably Disney’s game development studio in the country. Considering that it’s a fresh IP from the Angry Birds creator, the outcome will be of interest to both industry watchers and fans.