Indian student numbers at UK universities fall further

One of the key factors behind this decline is the abolishing of the post-study work visa. (Representative photo)
LONDON: The number of Indian students enrolling to study at UK universities continued its downward trend last year, apparently due to scrapping of the post – study work visas, according to new statistics released on Thursday.

The number of Indian first-year enrolments at UK varsities fell by 10 per cent – from 11,270 to 10,125 – the figures released by Higher Education Statistics Agency showed.

That meant that the US overtook India on the list of countries that are the biggest sources of UK university first-year enrolments from outside the European Union (EU), edging into second place behind China.

“We could be doing better than this. It is essential that the UK government presents a welcoming climate for genuine international students and academics and ensures that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately,” said Dame Julia Goodfellow, Universities UK president and University of Kent vice-chancellor.

In an indication that abolishing of the post-study work visa was one of the key factors behind this decline, she added: “We would also like to see enhanced opportunities for qualified international (non-EU) graduates to stay in the UK for a period to gain professional experience and contribute to the economy.

“These measures will be essential to meet the government’s own target of 30 billion pounds education exports.”
Just yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out the reintroduction of the visa which was abolished in 2012. It had allowed students from countries like India to stay on at the end of their course and work for two years.

“We don’t need the brightest and best of students to come here and then do menial jobs. That’s not what our immigration system is for,” Cameron told the House of Commons.

Delhi private schools begin toeing AAP government line on management quota

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had warned private schools of stringent action if they failed to implement the new quota policy. (PTI photo)
NEW DELHI: While private school associations are undecided about their stand after the Delhi government’s move to scrap management quota in nursery admissions, some schools have started toeing the line and have updated their admission criteria.

Queens’ Valley School, Dwarka which had earlier reserved 20 per cent seats under the management quota, has now merged the seats under general category.

BGS, International School, Dwarka has also made certain amendments in its criteria announced earlier.

Similarly, Mount Abu School, Rohini, which had earlier divided the general category seats as — 20 per cent sibling quota, 20 per cent management quota and 35 pc open seats, has now removed all the criterion.

Scrapping 32 per cent management quota, Sachdeva School, has also updated its criteria in its three branches in Pitampura, Rohini and Sachdeva Global School, Dwarka.

PP International School, Pitampura has also followed the same move.

Indraprastha International School, Dwarka and Paschim Vihar, have also notified their new criteria after removing the management quota.

However, they have reserved 20 per cent seats each under the quota for siblings, alumni and staff ward.

In a far-reaching decision, the government had last week scrapped management quota and all other reservations except the EWS category in private schools for nursery admissions and warned that erring institutions that they would be taken over by education department if they fail to implement the order.

The Action Committee for Unaided Private Schools of which 400 reputed schools are members, has sought legal opinion to decide their next move. The committee had moved Delhi high court in 2014 after lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung had notified the scrapping of quota then.

A single bench had then granted autonomy to the schools to decide the quotas.

The government had challenged the judgment seeking a stay before a division bench, but the matter is still pending. A hearing in the matter will come up on January 21.

The panel’s legal cell is meeting tomorrow to decide on its strategy, whether to wait for the court ruling or file a contempt of court petition against the government’s announcement as the matter is still sub-judice.

Besides scrapping the management quota, the government has also scrapped 62 “arbitrary and discriminatory” criteria listed by the schools on their websites for admissions and only 25 per cent quota for the economically weaker section (EWS) will stay.

However, the government’s announcement and different approach by schools, has created confusion for parents as the admission process is already halfway through.

“After scrapping of management quota, schools are likely to go to court, the parents are concerned about the future course of action. There is no clarity whether they have to refill the form again as some points have been changed by the schools,” said Sumit Vohra, an activist.

Vohra, is also setting up help desks at two schools next week to provide free counselling to the parents.

“I am holding two camps on January 16 and 17 at PP International School, Pitampura and Paul George Global School, Alaknanda respectively,” he added.

Students of Delhi Technological University (DTU) are also setting up voluntary camps to help parents from EWS category fill online forms.

The Best Tech Deals and Discounts for Students

Fiscal responsibility is often a necessity when working towards a four-year college degree. In addition to the ever-increasing cost of room and board, tuition and books, one also needs to budget for basic living expenses, occasional entertainment, unforeseen emergencies and so on.

Getting the most out of each dollar is absolutely critical for many during this stage of life but what most don’t realize, however, is that their college education can start paying dividends even before they step on campus. There are plenty of compassionate companies that offer deep discounts on all sorts of products for students enrolled at an institution of higher education.

To help the millions of broke college students out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top tech-related student discounts from a variety of vendors. Most apply to those enrolled in post-secondary education although a handful of deals also extend to K-12 students.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Education Store offers varying degrees of discounts on both hardware and software purchases. For example, students can save up to $194.90 on a Surface Pro 3 tablet, as much as $300 on an all-in-one PC and $289.90 on a MakerBot Replicator 3D printer.

On the software side, students can score a full copy of Windows 8.1 Pro for $69.99 and Office 365 University – a four-year subscription to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access – for just $79.99 (that works out to roughly $20 per year).

Microsoft Education Store discounts are offered to K-12, higher education students, parents purchasing on behalf of students, education institution employees, faculty, staff, school board and PTA/PTO executives for K-12 and higher education institutions. Some discounts are only available to higher education students and may require eligibility verification.

Microsoft appears to be using the honor system here in terms of academic status verification although the company reserves the right to collect the full price of products ordered in the event of false representation of eligibility. Simply select your educational level, state and school name to shop the Microsoft Education Store. Deals are only valid through January 1, 2015, or while supplies last. Full list of terms and conditions can be found here.

Amazon

Amazon offers a little-known discount program for students called Amazon Student. Eligible students will enjoy a six-month free trial of Amazon Prime as well as e-mail alerts for discounts and promotions. Once the trial period expires, students will get Prime at a rate of $49 which represents a 50 percent discount over the standard price.

What’s more, Amazon has a referral system in which students can earn a $10 credit for each person they recruit to Amazon Prime (a similar offer applies to standard Amazon Prime members but you only get $5 per referral). There’s no limit to the amount of referral credits that can be earned and they can be stacked to use more than one per order.

While that’s a great offer, there’s one major caveat that students need to be aware of. During the initial six-month free trial, Amazon’s music, movie and TV offerings aren’t available. If that’s too much of a burden, one can always upgrade to the paid student program early to receive full Prime benefits.

Amazon Student is available to those currently enrolled in a college or university with a valid .edu e-mail address. To get started, complete the sign-up form, then click the link in the verification message sent to your school e-mail address. Note that Amazon will ask for your expected graduation date, academic level and major during the sign-up process. Full list of terms and conditions can be found here.

Spotify

Spotify is one of the most popular streaming music providers around and they also happen to be one of the few that offer a student discount. Those eligible can enjoy a 50 percent discount off the regular price of a Premium membership (no ads and no limits), bringing the total monthly cost down from $9.99 to just $4.99.

To sign up, simply visit this website, log into Spotify using your regular account credentials or through Facebook and complete the verification application to determine if you’re eligible. Those who are eligible – students enrolled at an accredited U.S. higher education institution (college, university) – will get the discounted rate for a 12 month period. Students will need to renew their discount after 12 months to continue receiving it.

Those that already have a Premium membership can click here and follow the steps to convert to the discounted rate, which will be applied on the next renewal date.

Unfortunately, students won’t be able to get a refund for the months of Premium they’ve already paid for before learning about the discount. Those that get turned down but think they are eligible can apply for manual verification by clicking here. This process can take up to 12 hours.

Rdio

Streaming music provider Rdio also offers a discounted rate to those seeking a degree and much like Spotify, Rdio’s offer knocks 50 percent off the price of their top plan. Here are a few things you’ll need to know to keep an extra $5 in your wallet each month with Rdio Unlimited.

Rdio’s discount is only offered to students enrolled at a National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) affiliated school. The company claims most colleges are but students can check for themselves here, or simply jump into the sign-up process here.

Additionally, a social security number is required for all students as Rdio uses the last four digits to verify enrollment. Unfortunately, this means that international students without a valid SSN aren’t eligible and it also means that having a .edu e-mail address isn’t enough to get the discount.

It’s worth pointing out that existing Rdio users won’t be able to be part of a Family plan while participating in the student discount program. Also note that the discount can be applied for a maximum of four years so freshmen signing up will get the most life out of it.

Adobe

Adobe offers a wealth of multimedia and creativity software products but did you know they also offer an excellent discount program for students (and teachers)?

Those eligible can save a whopping 60 percent on a complete Creative Cloud subscription. With the discount, students will pay just $19.99 per month for the service – down from the standard rate of $49.99. While it is certainly a good deal, there are a few caveats that you’ll want to take note of before signing up.

Eligible students can purchase a 12-month membership for $239.88 up front for the first year or $19.99 per month with a 12-month contract. After the first year, Adobe will automatically renew you for another year at the regular price. What’s more, the offer is only available to first-time members and is limited to one purchase per customer.

As per Adobe’s FAQ, students must be at least 13 years of age and enrolled in an accredited public or private university or college, primary or secondary school or be homeschooled to be eligible. Those providing a school-issued e-mail address will be instantly verified during purchase. A document with name, institution name and current date (school ID card, report card, transcript, tuition bill or statement) will also work.

Homeschooled students will need to provide a dated copy of a letter of intent to homeschool, current membership ID to a homeschool association or dated proof of purchase of curriculum for the current academic school year to gain eligibility.

Apple

The Apple Store for Education offers a couple of decent student discounts. Those eligible can save up to $200 on a new Mac, as much as $20 on a new iPad and up to $50 off AppleCare protection plans on select items.

Education pricing is available to college students, students accepted to college, parents buying for college students, faculty and staff at colleges, homeschool teachers and staff at all grade levels. School board members are also eligible in addition to PTA or PTO executives serving as elected or appointed officers.

Purchases can be made either online, in an Apple Retail Store or through an Authorized Campus Reseller. If purchasing online, you won’t need to verify eligibility. If you’re buying at an Apple Retail Store or picking up an online order there, you’ll need to supply proof of student enrollment (ID card, for example).

Do note that Apple limits the number of products that can be purchased in a given year using an education discount. Those limits include one desktop per year, one Mac mini per year, one notebook annually and two iPads each year. It’s also worth pointing out that Apple will finance student purchases, spreading them out over up to 48 monthly payments.

AT&T

The nation’s second largest wireless provider offers discounted rates to students whose college or university has an agreement with AT&T. To check eligibility, simply submit your school e-mail address at AT&T’s Premier Business Center website.

If your school has an agreement with AT&T, they’ll send you an e-mail with details. As an example, my girlfriend could save 17 percent on her wireless bill each month (a friend at a different university qualified for a 19 percent discount so it appears to vary by school affiliation).

There are a couple of restrictions to be aware of. For starters, students must provide proof of eligibility (student ID card). What’s more, discounts are not available with any unlimited voice plans. For family talk plans, the discount applies only to the primary line. For Mobile Share plans, discounts apply only to the monthly service charge for the data allotment of eligible plans, not to the additional monthly device charge(s).

AT&T will also waive activation fees and upgrade fees on qualified plans.

Verizon

Similar to AT&T, Verizon offers student discounts based on school affiliation. To check eligibility, students can submit their .edu e-mail address on Verizon’s discounts page then check the message Verizon sends over.

Again, student discount rates will vary based on school. Using my girlfriend again as an example, she would qualify for a 19 percent discount on data packages and 25 percent off accessories. This would apply to every line she adds on the account, not just the primary line.

According to Verizon’s discounts FAQ, most plans with a monthly fee of $34.99 or higher qualify for a discount. Verizon will periodically (no more than once per year) ask you to validate your status to ensure you’re still eligible for your discount. If you fail to validate with 60 days of being asked to do so, the discount will be automatically removed.

It’s also worth pointing out that if you already have Verizon service, adding a student discount won’t affect your current contract.

Sprint

Sprint’s discount program is handled through the employee value program. To check eligibility, simply submit your .edu e-mail address and wait for a reply in your inbox. If you already have service through Sprint, you can enter your phone number here to see if you’re eligible for a discount.

Sprint offers discounts to students based on their school’s agreement with the wireless carrier. In my girlfriend’s case, she was eligible for a 19 percent discount on monthly services.

According to the terms and conditions, discounts only apply to Talk 450 and the primary line on Talk Share 700 plan. What’s more, discounts are only offered for data service for Sprint Family Share Pack, Sprint $60 Unlimited Plan and Unlimited, My Way plans. Discounts aren’t offered on “no credit check” offers or Mobile Hotspot add-on.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers student discounts through its Advantage Program. To check for discounts, simply fill out the form on the Advantage Program page using your school-issued e-mail address.

My girlfriend qualified for the Advantage Program through her university. T-Mobile used to have a worthwhile discount program but as part of CEO John Legere’s Uncarrier moves, he severely cut back on the discount.

Instead of a percentage off your monthly rate plan, T-Mobile now only offers new signees a $25 reward card each time you purchase a new device. The card can be used at T-Mobile stores towards the purchase of a new device, accessories or it can be applied to your monthly bill. It’s better than nothing but a far cry from what it used to be.

T-Mobile says they may need to verify information periodically to validate eligibility (basically to make sure you are still a student at a school affiliated with their program).

Quick-hit deals

Dell – Save two percent on purchases through Dell University

Sony – Up to 10 percent savings on items purchased through Sony Student Store

Lenovo – Their Academic Purchase Program has various discounts on all sorts of products

Fujitsu – Students and educators can get a five percent discount on select laptops and tablets

Norton – Students can save around 50 percent on security software

Corel – Save up to 96 percent off retail price on Corel products

Best Buy – Get coupon codes sent to your school-issued e-mail address

Intel – Low-priced and free development tools from Intel

Wrap Up

As you can see there are plenty of companies that offer worthwhile discounts to enrolled students. And as with any type of deal, if you’re unsure if a discount is offered, simply ask!

For example, in speaking with a Lenovo chat representative, I was offered additional discounts on top of what was shown to be the best student discount on their website. And in the case of wireless providers, you can often negotiate a lower rate – especially if you haggling skills are up to snuff (or you threaten to change providers).

Last but certainly not least, check with your school’s IT department to see if they offer any free or discounted software. It’s not uncommon for educational institutions to offer full versions of anti-virus software. You’ll never know unless you ask!

10 Tips for Good Smartphone Photography

Recently we took a look at the hardware that makes up your smartphone camera. While it’s interesting to know and understand what constitutes a digital camera module, that won’t help much when it comes to actually taking a photo on your smartphone. From a photography enthusiast and mobile hardware reviewer, I’ve put together this guide to tackle that part of the equation.

We’ve laid out ten tips for taking good photos on a smartphone, so hopefully you’ll be well on your way to producing some awesome shots from a fairly limited camera platform.

1

Know Your Auto Mode

Knowing how the automatic shooting mode on your smartphone camera works can greatly help you take good photos. Take the time to learn when it uses high ISOs, when it uses long shutter speeds, and adjust how you take photos accordingly. It especially helps to know when you decide to…

Two photos taken with the Nokia Lumia 930. Adjusting the white balance manually is necessary to get a good photo

2

Override the Defaults

Smartphones can be pretty good when it comes to choosing settings, but not always. Metering can sometimes be pretty shoddy indoors and in cloudy conditions, which is where overriding some of the settings can come in handy.

If you think the white balance is off, change it. If the photo is underexposed, use the sliders found in most camera applications to boost it. If you’d prefer grain to blur, up the ISO used by the camera manually. Don’t forget about the flash either, which is sometimes necessary.

If center-weighted metering isn’t providing the right results, you might also considering switching to spot-metering, which some cameras allow you to do. Center-weighted looks at the entire image and meters according to what it sees, with a preference on the center of the frame. When shooting subjects off-center, it can be a good idea to switch to spot metering so the area around the ‘spot’ you select is exposed perfectly.

3

Use Good Posture (or Even a Tripod)

A key method for reducing blur is knowing how to hold a smartphone camera in a stable way. Holding your arms outstretched or far away from your body can make them sway more when photographing. Moving your elbows into the sides of your body can give a bit of extra stability where needed, as can physically resting the smartphone on a stable object.

If you want perfect stability, it is possible to get a tripod attachment that you can slot your smartphone into. You’ll probably look a bit silly bringing a tripod out and about to use with your phone, but I have seen and achieved myself some fantastic shots with a tripod in hand.

The Samsung Galaxy S5’s HDR mode greatly improves visible detail in shadows

4

Harness HDR Mode

Dynamic range – the range of light intensities a camera can capture in the one photo while preserving detail – tends to be a weak point in smartphone cameras. In scenes with both dark and bright areas, such as a shadowed forest, it’s difficult to capture detail in the shadows and highlights at the same time. This is where HDR mode, or high dynamic range mode, comes into play.

HDR mode takes two images of different exposures near-simultaneously, and then combines them to produce one image that has higher dynamic range than the sensor can normally achieve. On most smartphones, this is something you can and should enable when the scene you’re photographing has widely varying contrast. The difference in photos can be vast, especially on Samsung smartphones where the HDR mode is particularly effective.

HDR mode shouldn’t be used all the time, though. As it has to take two photos and combine them, trying to photograph a fast-moving subject in HDR mode can lead to nasty ghosting and other unwanted effects. Using HDR mode in darker conditions can also introduce blur, simply from the combination of two images with slow shutter speeds.

5

Use the Whole Sensor

Something that really irks me about smartphone OEMs is their choice to always default to a 16:9 image capture ratio even if the sensor itself is not 16:9. You won’t have to do anything if you have a smartphone with a 16:9 sensor like the Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, but if you don’t, switching back to standard 4:3 can be beneficial.

Shooting in 4:3 on a 4:3 sensor not only gives you access to the full resolution of the camera, but it still allows you to crop down to 16:9 after the fact with more pixels to play with. Didn’t frame the shot perfectly the first time? Well if you were shooting in 4:3 and using the whole sensor, you might be able to get a better photo out of your shot.

HDR shot taken with a Samsung Galaxy S5 and edited in Adobe Lightroom. The original can be seen here.

6

Edit

The final piece of the puzzle that often stops a photo captured with a smartphone from looking truly awesome is the post-processing stage. All the detail and necessary information has been captured, but it may not look as vibrant as you were after, or as sharp, or as beautiful.

It’s easy to fix this: chuck the photo in an editing program on your computer, like Lightroom, or even use an app on the device itself and begin playing around. After moving a few sliders and ticking a few boxes, the results might astound you and your friends.

7

Check the App Store

You don’t have to use the default camera application on your smartphone. Check the Google Play Store, App Store or Windows Phone Store on your respective device and look for a standout camera app. Look online to see what people are saying, because there are some gems out there that can add features and controls to the smartphone photography experience.

Camera Zoom FX, as silly as it may sound, is a really solid camera replacement for Android devices. If you’re using a Windows Phone and it’s made by Nokia, make sure you’re using Nokia Camera. As for iOS, Camera+ and ProCamera are some applications to consider.

8

Never Zoom

Most smartphone cameras have the ability too zoom in while taking a photo. As the overwhelming majority of smartphones don’t have an optical zoom module, this zoom feature digitally zooms, simply enlarging and cropping the output from the sensor before the photo is captured. To get the best photos from your camera, never use the zoom feature.

Zooming before capturing does not allow you to reframe the image after the fact: you’re essentially losing data and reducing quality with no way backwards. Yes, the image will appear to show an image in the distance closer than it would otherwise, but you can very easily take the photo without zooming first, and then crop it afterwards. Taking the photo without zooming provides flexibility and the ability to change your mind later.

Taken with the Sony Xperia Z2 and its f/2.0 lens

9

Go Macro

Smartphone cameras don’t have the best bokeh from their wide-angle lenses, meaning it’s hard to achieve DSLR-like background blur with medium range shots (unless you have some fancy tools like the Duo Camera on the HTC One M8). How do you achieve that pleasant blur? Simply get closer to the subject of your shot, utilizing the close macro range of the focus system.

Some of the best photos I’ve achieved with a smartphone have been macro-style, using the small amount of bokeh that’s achievable to my advantage. On an f/2.4 camera system, like the LG G2 or Nokia Lumia 930, don’t expect anything incredible; but if you’re blessed with an f/2.0 system like the Sony Xperia Z2 results can be surprising.

10

Light It Right

If you want to get serious about smartphone photography, it’s crucial that your photos are lit well. Small sensors typically found in phones are not very capable when lighting gets poor, so it’s always best to ensure your subject is well lit when taking a shot. If you can use your camera at ISO 100 or lower, you’ll see less grain in the resultant image, and photos will look clearer and more impressive.

One way to achieve better lighting for your smartphone photos is to get strong artificial lights, but this probably isn’t practical or worth it considering it’s not a DSLR. The flash also tends not to be so great, so you can rule that out as well. This leaves natural light as the best source, and there are a few tips to getting the best shots in the lighting you have.

Taken with the merely okay HTC One Mini camera. Placing the paperweight near a window helps improve lighting for a better photo.

Like when photographing with any camera, ideally the sun should be behind the camera’s lens, shining light onto the subject without entering the lens directly. Pointing a camera towards the sun will cause shadowing and a loss of contrast, so try not to do so unless you want the artistic effect. In cloudy conditions the sun can be diffused throughout the sky, so avoid shooting up to the sky if it’s not a sunny day.

As I mentioned earlier, it might also be worth exploring spot metering to get the exposure just right, especially when there’s strong backlighting. Ideally you wouldn’t be shooting when there’s strong backlighting as smartphone cameras typically have weak dynamic range, but sometimes it’s necessary. And sometimes you can experiment with reflective surfaces to get light in just the right positions: often a simple white piece of paper will suffice at directing light from the sun (or an artificial light) on to your subject.

Finally, as some bonus tips for you budding videographers out there, make sure that you set your smartphone to record at the maximum resolution possible. Many smartphones that record at 4K will default to 1080p, so changing the appropriate setting will lead to better quality videos. Another thing, try recording HDR or 60 frames per second video for better quality or smoother videos.

Where to Watch Free Movies and TV Online

The spread of broadband Internet is changing the way we watch TV and movies. A lot of people are cutting the cable company cord or dropping that satellite service in favor of online streaming. If you’ve been wondering where you can find movies and TV shows to watch for free online without breaking the law, then we’ve got you covered.

Below is a compilation of seven services where you’ll find everything from older films or B-movies to documentaries, cult classics, and more popular mainstream releases from the big and small screen. We also have a few honorable mentions covering traditional TV networks that are streaming their content online as well as popular paid online streaming alternatives.

YouTube

Over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every single month. Most of them are music and funny videos, but you can find free full length movies and TV shows on there as well. The vast majority are older films or B-movies, but you’ll discover the odd gem if you look hard enough. Videos may be split into multiple chapters, and you’ll have to put up with ads.

Hulu

You can find an impressive selection of TV shows and movies on Hulu for free, and the content is supported by ads. Hulu is backed by NBC Universal, Fox, and Disney, and it has struck agreements with a wide variety of networks and partners.

There is also an optional subscription service called Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) which offers a much wider library of content and support for mobile devices, although it still includes ads. In either case their video library can only be watched from within the United States.

Crackle

Owned by Sony and available for free, Crackle is a good place to check for TV shows and movies. The service is supported by ads and it offers a mixture of older content and B-movies with the odd blockbuster or top TV show. There’s also a free Crackle app for all major mobile platforms. The content changes quite frequently and big titles tend to be available for a limited time only.

Internet Movie Archive

This is a great resource for full-length movies, TV footage, and all kinds of videos that are in the public domain. Most of the movies are older, but you’ll find some real classics on offer. The archive is also packed with curiosities and oddities including sporting events, old news broadcasts, and propaganda films.

Viewster

Here’s another collection of relatively obscure movies and TV shows that you can stream for free. Viewster is ad-supported with an interesting mixture of content and apps for various platforms.

SnagFilms

You can find documentaries, cult classics, and film festival favorites at Snag Films. Everything is neatly categorized, so you can dip into the strange mixture and identify something worth watching. The content is ad-supported and it’s available as an app for all the major platforms.

Vimeo

This is a creative hub for a lot of amateur and indie filmmakers, and you’ll find a wide variety of videos divided into lots of different categories. Most of the content is short form and you aren’t going to find big name shows or movies, but there’s still some very interesting content on there.

Honorable mentions

There are a few other locations worth mentioning, although the first two are mostly curated lists that point to content on YouTube or the Internet Movie Archive. First there’s Top Documentary Films, which lists documentaries in various categories and ready to stream for free. Then there’s the Open Culture free online movies list which will direct you to some really interesting classics and short works by famous filmmakers. If you like anime and Asian shows check out Crunchyroll.

Free TV Network Websites

A lot of the big networks also offer free TV show episodes to stream online. There may be limitations in certain regions and you may need to be registered with a particular TV provider or cable service in order to gain access. But there are a few that seem to be completely free:

  • ABC Family: TV show episodes a day after they air
  • CBS: Free TV show episodes of recent series and classics
  • CW TV: Full recently aired episodes of TV shows
  • Fox: A range of full episodes of recent shows
  • History Channel: Some episodes of selected shows, mostly clips and recaps
  • Lifetime: TV series and movies from the network
  • NBC: Full episodes of current TV shows
  • PBS: Free episodes of recently aired TV shows

If you have an eligible TV provider or relevant cable service, then you can also stream content from ABC, Disney, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, TBS, TLC, TNT, and USA Now.

Worth Paying For

If you do decide that you can afford a monthly subscription service then we recommend Netflix, currently $8.99 per month, as the best bang for your buck in terms of TV shows and movies. You may also consider an Amazon Prime account at $99 for the year, as it offers access to a wide range of streaming TV shows and movies, as well as other benefits.

Running Linux From a USB Drive As a Virtual Machine or Bootable Disk

Live Linux environments work just like a typical operating system but run entirely from a CD or USB stick — the latter being the most common choice these days. Since nothing is written to the host computer’s local storage, when you’re done all you need to do is remove the media, reboot, and everything will be exactly as it was.

There are a number of uses to this, from simply test driving Linux to troubleshooting a Windows PC, or work on the go from someone else’s computer but running your own OS securely with all your personal files and settings.

There are basically two options when it comes to running Linux from a USB drive: from within Windows using virtualization software such as VirtualBox, or creating a boot disk. This quick guide details both methods in a few easy steps.

Running Linux from a USB drive in Windows

This option will come in handy if you want to run a Live Linux environment but need to retain access to Windows. Perhaps you just want to do something real quick without rebooting, or want to be able to hide the virtualized Linux instance. Our preferred weapon of choice here is a little tool called LinuxLive USB Creator.

It’s free, open-source software, and it has a built-in virtualization feature that lets you run a self contained version of VirtualBox from the USB drive. This means the host computer you’ll run Linux from doesn’t need to have VirtualBox installed.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Download and transfer the ISO image of your preferred Linux distribution to a USB drive.
  • Download and install LinuxLive USB Creator.
  • Launch LiLi USB Creator and follow the straightforward steps guiding you through the process.
    • Step 1. Select the USB drive where you want Linux installed.
    • Step 2. Choose the source ISO file of the Linux distribution you downloaded.
    • Step 3. Choose Live Mode.
    • Step 4. Leave the third box checked, the other two are up to you and self-explanatory.

You will need and internet connection to complete the process — mainly to download VirtualBox if you don’t have it installed. Once the process is finished, open your USB key in Windows Explorer and you should see a folder called VirtualBox containing two executable files:VirtualizeThisKey.exe and VirtualBox.exe.

Running VirtualizeThisKey.exe will launch your Linux distribution in Windows (inside VirtualBox), whereas VirtualBox.exe opens the full VirtualBox interface.

Boot Linux from a USB drive

If you’d rather load Linux without going through Windows first this is the way to go. There are a few different tools for creating bootable USB drives around the web but one I’m particularly fond of is YUMI — short for Your Universal Multiboot Installer.

This is the successor to our MultibootISO and can be used to install more than one distribution to run from your USB. It’s extremely simple to use, and all files from each Linux distribution are stored within the Multiboot folder, making for a nicely organized Multiboot Drive that can still be used for other storage purposes.

  • Download the ISO image of your preferred Linux distribution.
  • Download and install YUMI.
  • Launch YUMI and follow three simple steps guiding you through the process.
    • Step 1. Select the USB drive where you want Linux installed.
    • Step 2. Select the Linux distribution you’ll be installing from the list.
    • Step 3. Choose the source ISO file of the Linux distribution you downloaded.

Once YUMI is done you’re all set. To boot into Linux just plug the USB drive into the host computer, reboot, and press the required key during this process to enter the Boot Menu (usually F10). After choosing your USB drive you should see the YUMI boot menu where you can pick the desired Linux distribution in Live mode.

You can run YUMI’s boot drive creator again to add More ISOs/distributions to your drive as needed and they’ll all show up in this menu during boot.

Which Linux distribution should I install?

There’s no single right answer to that question. For a new user jumping into the world of Linux-based operating systems the amount of options available can be overwhelming. Finding the “right” distro for you can only be done though experience but there are plenty of resources online to help you figure it out.

Popular choices for newcomers include Ubuntu, Mint and PCLinuxOS. If you are looking for a secure operating system to take with you anywhere, you might also want to give Tails a try. The latter received a lot of press recently when it was disclosed that Edward Snowden was using it to avoid NSA snooping.

Fire TV vs. Roku vs. Chromecast: Between a set-top box and a streaming stick

As Amazon Fire TV ($99) bursts onto the market to compete with streamers like the Roku 3 ($99) and Apple TV ($99), you may be wondering what these set-top boxes offer over cheaper streaming sticks, specifically Google’s Chromecast ($35) and Roku’s Streaming Stick ($49.99). Each has its own advantages and drawbacks, and it really comes down to what features you want, and possibly what tech ecosystem you are already a part of.

So should you spend less on a streaming stick, or splurge on a fully-capable box? Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide.

Size and Connections

The streaming sticks are obviously smaller and they plug directly into your TV’s HDMI port. They are also capable of drawing power from an available USB port. The boxes all offer extra ports, including an Ethernet port which could be important if you don’t have great Wi-Fi.

Speed and Power

The Fire TV is way out in front with a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, while the Roku 3 is also snappy with a dual-core processor. By comparison, the streaming sticks and Apple TV lag behind. This won’t affect the streaming speed, but it will impact your navigation through menus, how quickly apps load, and potentially how games are handled.

Remote Control

If you like a dedicated remote control, the Chromecast is out. It requires a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to choose content. The Roku systems can be controlled using Android or iOS apps, or you can use the physical remote controls that come with them. The Roku 3 also has motion control in the remote for gaming, and a nifty headphone port for watching TV without bothering anyone else in the room; the Roku stick, however, does not. The Fire TV remote boasts voice search, but it’s limited to Amazon’s Instant Video library and Vevo, so it can’t search Netflix or any of your other content channels. You can also get a dedicated Amazon Fire Game Controller for an extra $39.99 and use your Fire TV as an Android gaming console.

Content

Roku is a clear leader here, and both the Roku 3 and the Streaming Stick have access to over 1,200 channels. They also have a useful universal search function that makes it easier to quickly find the shows or movies you want. Fire TV and Apple TV both have numerous channels and apps, but omit at least some favorites like Spotify, Vudu, Showtime, and/or HBO Go. Chromecast still has limited functionality, though it does support Netflix, Hulu, and others.

Casting

Chromecast is the only one that allows you to stream from your Chrome browser on any computer or mobile device, but it doesn’t work perfectly and it doesn’t work with all content. (It won’t work with Silverlight for example.)

Apple TV supports AirPlay for mirroring or streaming content, but only from a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Fire TV allows you to stream from a Kindle Fire tablet. The Roku app offers limited streaming options for your personal photos, music, and videos, but you can find third-party apps that will allow you to mirror your Android or iOS device.

Price Considerations

Though many thought Amazon’s set-top box would undercut Apple’s and Roku’s price points, it’s actually the most expensive streamer of the bunch if you factor in all the deals out there for the latter two devices. And that doesn’t include a subscription to Amazon Instant Video, which isn’t required, but adds an additional $99/year should you opt for their video service.

In such a competitive market, that’s a bold move on Amazon’s part, especially with streamers like the Google Chromecast, which is priced at $35 and has been seen discounted down to $28. Granted, the Chromecast requires the use of a laptop/tablet/smartphone, but it’s still a viable option with a smaller footprint both physically and financially.

Wrap Up

Overall, the Roku Streaming Stick doesn’t ask you to sacrifice much over a set-top box like theRoku 3, and it is half the price. If you don’t care about a remote control, then the Chromecast is a winner on price and we expect more channels to roll out on it very soon. If you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, then keep an eye out for a new version of Apple TV (coming very soon according to leaks). If you’re happy with Amazon’s walled garden and gaming is a factor, then theFire TV could be your best bet.

Screenshot Sharing in a Snap: 7 Free Alternatives to Droplr

Many of us here at TechSpot use Droplr on a daily basis to quickly share screenshots. While this simple app is great at what it does, since it moved to a subscription-only model I decided to look for a replacement. It’s just hard to justify paying $4.99 a month when there are quite a few options out there that work just as well.

For those unfamiliar with the service, Droplr offers a quick and easy way to share not just screenshots, but also text snippets and any type of files. Want to share a quick screenshot? Press a hotkey, select an area of the screen to snap, and the resulting image is automatically uploaded along with a short link copied to your clipboard ready to share. For files just drag them to Droplr’s system tray icon and they’ll be uploaded instantly.

No folders, no syncing. Droplr excels at simplicity. But if, like me, you feel it’s not critical enough to your workflow to pay a monthly subscription, here are some free alternatives you should look at.

CloudApp

CloudApp works very similar to the original Droplr. There’s a global hotkey for quickly snapping screenshots as well as the option to drag any type of file to its status bar icon, with a shortened link to the image or file copied to the clipboard. Like all the alternatives listed here CloudApp is free, but you can only share up to 10 files (max 25MB each) a day. If that’s not enough there’s a Pro upgrade for $45/year which offers limitless shares, larger files sizes and your own personalized links. Downside? Available only for Mac.

FluffyApp

FluffyApp is a third-party Windows client for CloudApp and probably the closest thing to the Droplr sharing experience on the platform. It offers the same functionality plus options like automatic uploads of PrtScr presses, and ‘add text’, which offers a quick way to share texts or code. Since it’s based on CloudApp you’ll need to sign up for an account and are bound to the same 10 uploads per day limitation. Available only for Windows (free).

 

TinyGrab

Unlike the previous two alternatives which support all types of files, this one is strictly for screenshots. The app lets you set hotkeys for full screen, selected area and active window. As soon as an image is captured and uploaded, a short link is copied to the clipboard for you to share. TinyGrab adds a social element by offering the option to share screenshots to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or by email. If you are into sharing through social networks this app saves you a step. Available for Windows and Mac free of charge with no storage limits in place. There is supposedly an iPhone client but it seems unavailable in the U.S. iTunes store at this time.

Gyazo

Gyazo is a pretty straightforward screenshot sharing utility with the added option of capturing animated GIFs and videos (up to 10 seconds long). With the press of a hotkey you’ll see a crosshair cursor to snap a specific area on your screen. Gyazo automatically uploads the image to their servers, and then opens a browser pointing to the unique URL for the image, with options to share on social networks. Although Gyazo is free on Windows, Mac, Linux there’s also a premium tier for $2.99/month that gets rids of ads and adds annotation support.

Monosnap

Monosnap is highly customizable and among its key features is the option to annotate screenshots. The latter adds an extra step into the workflow but will come in handy when you want to describe stuff within the image you are sharing. Alternatively, you can just adjust the program’s settings so it skips the editor and automatically uploads screenshots or saves them to the desktop. Monosnap integrates with external providers like Dropbox, Evernote, Box.com, CloudApp or your own server via FTP if you’d rather store captures there.

For the meticulous freak Monosnap’s editor has an 8x magnifier for pixel perfect crops. BesidesWindows, Mac and iOS, Monosnap is available for Chrome and an Android client is reportedly in the works.

Skitch

Skitch is hardly a replacement for the streamlined Droplr screenshot sharing experience but its powerful annotation tools make it a contender in its own right. Upon taking a screenshot the built-in editor will launch and there’s no way to skip this step. You can add arrows, text, shapes, stamps and drawings to images or use the pixelate tools to blur out information. Since Evernote acquired Skitch in 2011 the two are now tightly integrated. Upon closing the editor, images are automatically uploaded to your Evernote account and count towards your free 60MB monthly quota, though you can configure it to work with your own server via FTP.

Skitch is available for free on Windows, OS X, Android and iOS.

 

Dropbox

It’s not a screenshot sharing app but Dropbox can be configured to automatically upload any screenshots taken natively in Windows or OS X and copy a share URL to your clipboard. Alternatively you can save a screenshot to any folder within your Dropbox and press the share link button — just like you would with any other file. Although there’s no annotation feature it’s a competent alternative if you are already using the service.

A List of Common Default Router IP Addresses

Here’s the scenario: you are trying to fix a relative’s network issues and you need to access their router’s browser interface. We’ve all been there, fruitlessly pecking in combinations of 192.168.x.x. Unless you have every default router address tattooed on your forearm, you’ll eventually encounter one that stumps you.

When that happens, you can typically find the information with a simple command on Windows. Open the command prompt (Start > Run/Search for cmd) and then enter ipconfig. The address you need should be next to Default Gateway under your Local Area Connection, and it will often begin with 192.168.

If for some reason you can’t retrieve the router’s IP address using that method, we’ve compiled a brief list of popular router brands and their common default addresses. The list includes most router manufacturers with more than a dozen or so models, particularly if they deviate from the standard 192.168.1.1 address.

Router Brand Common Default IP Addresses
2Wire 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
10.0.0.138
3Com 192.168.1.1
192.168.1.10.1
Actiontec 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.2.1
192.168.254.254
Airlink 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
Airlive 192.168.2.1
Airties 192.168.2.1
Apple 10.0.1.1
Amped Wireless 192.168.3.1
Asus 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
10.10.1.1
Aztech 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
192.168.1.254
192.168.254.254
Belkin 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
10.0.0.2
10.1.1.1
Billion 192.168.1.254
10.0.0.2
Buffalo 192.168.1.1
192.168.11.1
Dell 192.168.1.1
Cisco 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.30
192.168.0.50
10.0.0.1
10.0.0.2
D-Link 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.0.10
192.168.0.101
192.168.0.30
192.168.0.50
192.168.1.254
192.168.15.1
192.168.254.254
10.0.0.1
10.0.0.2
10.1.1.1
10.90.90.90
Edimax 192.168.2.1
Eminent 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.8.1
Gigabyte 192.168.1.254
Hawking 192.168.1.200
192.168.1.254
Huawei 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.3.1
192.168.8.1
192.168.100.1
10.0.0.138
LevelOne 192.168.0.1
192.168.123.254
Linksys 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.1.10
192.168.1.210
192.168.1.254
192.168.1.99
192.168.15.1
192.168.16.1
192.168.2.1
Microsoft 192.168.2.1
Motorola 192.168.0.1
192.168.10.1
192.168.15.1
192.168.20.1
192.168.30.1
192.168.62.1
192.168.100.1
192.168.102.1
192.168.1.254
MSI 192.168.1.254
Netgear 192.168.0.1
192.168.0.227
NetComm 192.168.1.1
192.168.10.50
192.168.20.1
10.0.0.138
Netopia 192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
Planet 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
Repotec 192.168.1.1
192.168.10.1
192.168.16.1
192.168.123.254
Senao 192.168.0.1
Siemens 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
192.168.2.1
192.168.254.254
10.0.0.138
10.0.0.2
Sitecom 192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
192.168.123.254
10.0.0.1
SMC Networks 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.2.1
10.0.0.1
10.1.10.1
Sonicwall 192.168.0.3
192.168.168.168
SpeedTouch 10.0.0.138
192.168.1.254
Sweex 192.168.15.1
192.168.50.1
192.168.55.1
192.168.251.1
Tenda 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
Thomson 192.168.0.1
192.168.1.254
192.168.100.1
TP-Link 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.0.254
Trendnet 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.0.30
192.168.0.100
192.168.1.100
192.168.1.254
192.168.10.1
192.168.10.10
192.168.10.100
192.168.2.1
192.168.223.100
200.200.200.5
U.S. Robotics 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
192.168.123.254
Zoom 192.168.1.1
192.168.2.1
192.168.4.1
192.168.10.1
192.168.1.254
10.0.0.2
10.0.0.138
ZTE 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.100.100
192.168.1.254
192.168.2.1
192.168.2.254
Zyxel 192.168.1.1
192.168.0.1
192.168.2.1
192.168.4.1
192.168.10.1
192.168.1.254
192.168.254.254
10.0.0.2
10.0.0.138

If you couldn’t find your router brand above, or the most common default IPs are not working for your model, we recommend you check out RouterIPAddress.com or SetupRouter.com.

Default usernames and passwords

Likewise, if you’re looking for default usernames and passwords, RouterPasswords.com andPortForward.com should have you covered. Common default usernames include variations ofadmin (Admin, administrator, etc.), and the password is often admin, password, or simply left blank— needless to say, it’s good practice to change these during the initial setup.

Why Owning a Real Camera Matters

When one of my best friends unexpectedly died last year, his family turned to me for photos to use in the slideshow that would play during the visitation. Camera-equipped smartphones are the norm these days and as such, there was no shortage of pictures to choose from. Inevitably, this also meant his loved ones were left with a collection of mostly low-quality cell phone photos to remember him by.

I learned at a very early age that photographs are often all you have to remember someone by. When I was young, my aunt was always snapping photos of my cousins and I when they’d come to visit or during special occasions. I never really cared to have my picture taken but in hindsight, I’m thankful she was a shutterbug and believe it partially sparked my interest in photography.

Consumer digital cameras were just starting to come around by the time I hit high school in the late ‘90s. Up to that point, standard film cameras and disposables were all we had to rely on. Camera phones didn’t yet exist and most digital cameras offered a maximum resolution of just 640 x 480 with images saved directly to a floppy disk on select models – hardly a suitable replacement for film photography.

Camera technology advanced rapidly over the coming years and by the early 2000s, you could get a point-and-shoot digital camera with image quality that’s on par to what today’s mobile devices are capable of.

I was probably one of the only kids in my school with a digital camera, not because they were overly expensive, but because teenagers back then simply didn’t care about taking pictures. This was largely because technology didn’t yet play a key role in the lives of youth the way it does today. Facebook and Instagram simply didn’t exist at this point.

Having “unlimited film” felt liberating and meant that I could snap away at whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was hooked… I just didn’t know it yet.

Despite my early interest in taking pictures, it wasn’t until early 2006 that I picked up my first DSLR. The image quality of the Nikon D50 blew me away and although I didn’t know a lick about photography, I was able to capture photos that still look just fine a decade later. A couple of photography classes in college helped sharpen my skills but to be honest, much of what I learned came through trial and error and learning from articles on the Internet.

Sharp was the first manufacturer to equip a mobile phone with a camera module way back in 2000. It took another two years before camera phones found their way to the US. It’d be a few more years still before phones in general really gained traction but once they did, consumers were hooked on “camera phones” as they were known at the time.

By 2005, it was Nokia – not Canon or Nikon – that earned the title of world’s most sold digital camera brand. Consumers were content to leave their standalone digital cameras at home and rely solely on camera phones for their imaging needs. People were essentially trading image quality for convenience, a trend that continues to this very day.

 I refused to subscribe to the notion that cell phone photos were acceptable and stuck with my entry-level DSLR. For a period of about three years or so, I literally carried a camera with me everywhere I went, snapping thousands of photos in the process (I’m a few hundred pictures shy of 80,000 today). In a way, it became a part of who I was and you could almost always count on the fact that I’d have my camera with me wherever life would take me.

Google recently said it best: photos are more than just pixels. They’re moments in time we’ll never want to forget.

Depending on your age or life experiences, that may not mean much to you at this point. Having crossed into my 30s a few years back and having already lost both parents and a best friend, it certainly resonates with me. I’ve become much more aware of life and how fragile it is. We only have a finite amount of time to create memories and once our time is up, that’s it.

Memories fade but the images you capture with friends and family last a lifetime.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve combed through my photo collection over the years. From driving 1,602 miles cross-country to Las Vegas with my best friends to attend CES in 2007, impromptu weekend-consuming LAN parties and vacations with close friends to off-roading in perhaps the least capable vehicle possible (a Mini Cooper), annual Super Bowl parties and various sporting events, my photos have documented it all.

It may have been inconvenient to lug around a camera all the time but in retrospect, I’m glad I had the insight and wherewithal to capture and preserve what will likely go down as some of the most important, exciting, fun and memorable times of my life.

I’m not trying to sound like a parent attempting to instill good values in their children but I want to convey the importance of what’s at stake here.

Maybe it’s your baby’s first steps, a college graduation, that once-in-a-lifetime vacation with your friends, annual family gatherings or your daughter’s wedding. Whatever it is, that moment only comes around once and I guarantee you’ll be kicking yourself if all you have to remember them by is a collection of blurry, grainy, washed out, out-of-focus, Instagram filter-laden pictures from a smartphone (or worse, a tablet).

Sports Illustrated’s recent cover photo of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah just before the horse crossed the finish line at the Belmont Stakes is a perfect example of our generation.

Attendees, most of which I assume are quite wealthy, paid at minimum a few hundred bucks to witness what most correctly predicted would be the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Rightfully so, those in stands wanted to capture the history-making moment as it unfolded yet as seen in the cover photo, everyone did so with their smartphone camera. Seriously, I can’t spot a single proper digital camera in the photo.

I’m not encouraging everyone go to out and drop thousands of dollars on a 50-megapixel, cutting-edge DSLR. A respectable point-and-shoot can be had for a few hundred dollars these days or if you’re alright with going the pre-owned route, there are countless DSLRs and mirrorless cameras on eBay that still have plenty of life left in them.

A decent camera that’s 10+ years old is capable of producing excellent quality images, even when used in automatic mode. Furthermore, I’m not suggesting you carry it around with you at all times. Even if you only use a standalone digital camera a few times each year, it’d be worth the investment in no time as memories are priceless.

Capturing important life events with a smartphone camera is a disservice to everyone involved. Technology has afforded us the ability to preserve our lives and our memories like never before. All I’m asking is that you don’t squander away the opportunity.

And who knows, you may end up finding a new hobby.