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8 Simple Ways to Speed Up Your Smartphone

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Much like computers, smartphones can start to slow down after years, or even months, of use. However, there are some ways to keep your iOS and Android devices running as good as new until you have to upgrade. Here are eight simple ways to speed up your smartphone.

1. UPDATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM.

If your smartphone is running slower than usual, then your operating system (or OS) might not be up-to-date. Having the latest version of iOS or Android on your phone is the best way to ensure it works at its zippiest. Just make sure your phone is connected to Wi-Fi and backed up before you update your phone’s software, and make sure that your phone can handle it. Newer operating systems might not be optimized for older or lower-cost phones.

iPhone: Go to “Settings,” then “General,” and then “Software Update.”

Android: Go to “Settings,” and then “About Phone.” Tap “System Updates” or "Software Updates" at the top of the screen to check if you have any Android updates.

2. REDUCE MOTION AND ANIMATION.

Animations might look cool when transitioning from one app to another, but they can really slow down your phone, as they use up space and resources. Disabling animations on both Androids and iPhones can be tricky, but it’s worth it to make your device run faster.

iPhone: On iPhones, there is a setting to reduce motion by going to “Settings,” then “General,” and then “Accessibility.” If you have yet to update to iOS 9.3.2 (there are probably a few of you out there) there is a convoluted way of disabling all animations, but that bug was patched in later updates.

Android: Your phone has to be in developer mode to disable animations. To do so, go to “Settings,” then “About Phone.” Find  “Build Number” and continuously tap the option until you’re granted “Developer Mode.” Go back to “Settings” and “Developer Options” to find “Window Animation Scale,” “Transition Animation Scale,” and “Animator Duration Scale.” Set all three options to “Off.” Then you might need to restart your phone (although this has been known to create glitches, so be careful).

3. GET RID OF WIDGETS.

If you’re an Android user, stop using widgets on your home screens. While widgets are useful for quickly giving you info at a glance, they are serious data hogs. Many widgets constantly refresh in the background to find new information and updates, so if you don’t need it, you should probably delete it.

4. STOP USING LIVE WALLPAPER.

Live wallpaper is a fun feature to show off your new smartphone, but much like widgets, they eat up a lot of memory and battery life. Over time, live wallpaper will slow down your phone and kill its efficiency. If you have a high-end Android with an AMOLED display and want to speed up your phone and save some battery life at the same time, use solid color wallpaper, preferably all-black, to reduce pixel activity and divert resources elsewhere.

5. AUTOMATICALLY CLEAR MESSAGES AFTER 30 DAYS.

One place few people ever think of clearing space is in iMessage and other text messaging apps. If you have more than 1GB of text messages slowing down your phone, it’s probably a good time to clear them out to make your device run faster. Luckily for iPhone users, you can set iMessage to clear old messages every 30 days. It’s recommended that you archive your text messages to iCloud if you still want to keep them.

Go to “Settings,” then “Messages,” and finally “Keep Messages” to pick the 30 days option.

Unfortunately, there is no such option for Android devices, so you’re going to have to delete messages in bulk manually (although there is an option under "Settings" to delete old messages when storage gets low).

6. ENABLE WI-FI ASSIST.

When you’re using a spotty Wi-Fi signal, Wi-Fi Assist for iPhone can help you transition to data without missing a beat. It’s built into iOS 9 and higher (for most devices) and it’s pretty useful when you can’t keep a strong enough Wi-Fi connection. It also helps your iPhone’s performance and battery life, so it doesn’t constantly look for a good signal when you’re out of range.

Go to “Setting,” and then “Cellular,” and toggle “Wi-Fi Assist” to on. It’s smart enough to not turn on for big downloads, but it’s still a good idea to keep track of your data usage as some users have complained of unexpected overages.

7. ADJUST BACKGROUND APP REFRESH SETTINGS.

A lot of email, weather, and location apps work in the background, even if you’re not using them—and they’re constantly and automatically refreshing without you even noticing. However, you can adjust and tweak all of your apps so that they only refresh to get new information when you choose.

iPhone: First it’s a good idea to turn off "Find My iPhone" by going to “Settings,” then “iCloud,” and turn off "Find My iPhone." Then go back to “Settings,” and then “General.” Pick “Background App Refresh” and turn off any app that you don’t need to speed up your iPhone.

Android: Go to “Settings,” and then “Data Usage.” Tap the menu icon and find “Restrict Background Data.” Now your Android device will only refresh its apps when you think it’s necessary.

8. INITIATE A FULL RESET AND FACTORY RESET.

When all else fails and all the tips above didn’t make your smartphone work any faster, then your only choice is to initiate a full or factory reset. This will restore your phone to the first day you bought it with a clean OS, but with all the current firmware updates. But be warned: a factory reset will wipe out all of your photos, music, text messages, apps, and any important files you might have on your smartphone. It will also get rid of all the junk that’s bogging your phone down too, but you’re going to have to start over again. It’s highly recommended that you backup and encrypt all of your data before you choose to reset your iPhone or Android device.

iPhone: Go to “Settings,” then “General,” and then “Reset.” Tap “Erase All Content and Settings” and confirm with your password. You can also perform a Factory Reset with iTunes under the “Restore Phone” tab when you plug your iPhone into your computer.

Android: Go to “Settings,” then “Backup and Reset,” and tap “Factory Data Reset.” Tap “Reset Phone” and confirm with your password. Finally, tap “Erase Everything” and your Android device will reboot to the condition when you first took it out of its box.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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