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This Android App Will Show You if Your Smartphone Camera is Spying on You

The release of iOS 14 for the iPhone brought with it a handy security feature that displays a little green dot on the top of your screen any time your camera is being used. Basically a tally light. But what about Android users? As the saying goes: there’s an app for that.

An Android app called Access Dots, created by XDA developer jagan2, does for the Android smartphones what iOS 14 did automatically for iPhone users: it uses little colored dots to show you when your camera or microphone is in use.

While Android 9 does include notifications for apps that are using the camera or mic in the background, many users disregard or even silence these alerts. Having a little green dot staring you in the face no matter which app you’re using or what screen you’re on is arguably much more effective at getting your attention.

On the down side, this is a third-party implementation that will (ironically) need accessibility privileges in order to notice when the camera is in use and display said dot; on the up side, the third party implementation means that you get to customize your experience a little bit.

The free version lets you select the color of the Camera and Microphone dots. If you “donate” to the developer in-app, you’ll get access to more granular control, like changing the size of the dot or choosing its location on the screen. The latest version also maintains an “access log” that lists every app that has used your camera or microphone in chronological order, so you can go back and review.

As GHacks points out, you may want to install this only temporarily, using it for a few days to see if any unexpected apps are accessing your camera or microphone without your knowledge, and then deleting it. However you choose to use it, Access Dots is one popular solution if you want to make sure nobody is using your smartphone’s camera to spy on you.

Click here to learn more or download it for yourself from the Google Play store.

Why I’m Still Using Picasa in 2020

Google’s Picasa was first released in 2002 as a quick way to catalog and edit your photos en masse. In 2015, Google released its last update and has since replaced it with the now ubiquitous Google Photos.

It works just like Adobe’s Lightroom without all of the bells and whistles for editing, and instead it just gives you basic features: red-eye removal (when was the last time you saw red-eye?) auto-white balance, cropping, light-sliders, color change, etc.

What Picasa does that neither Lightroom nor Google Photos do is allow you to browse all of your images lightning fast. Google Photos is impossible to quickly scroll through because it needs to download every single image as you browse. Lightroom could potentially be used for the same purpose but, unfortunately, it just doesn’t. With every image loading, the original file with edits overlayed in Lightroom, and with my stupid amount of custom presets, Lightroom struggles after a certain amount of files loaded and it needs purging.

Picasa, on the other hand, displays all of my images (a quarter of a million, over 1TB) in thousands of folders across three (sometimes four) different drives seamlessly. Every image I have taken can be seen in one place without having to cross my fingers each time I double click on a folder. The best part? It handles RAW files like a godd**n boss.

Picasa opens and closes instantly and doesn’t require you to manually import every file — just select which drives you want it to watch and it will always be up-to-date. Clicking through random folders and seeing images you long forgot is almost therapeutic in its simplicity.

There are some drawbacks, I would love to see so many improvements made with Picasa such as being able to select numerous folders at once and edit them (adding tags, etc), and I’d love if they brought back being able to upload to Google Photos directly again. The UI hasn’t aged too well with a boring grey theme but that feels like picking hairs.

I am grateful that I am still able to use this defunct software and it still serves a purpose for me: finding stuff! You can’t download Picasa directly from Google anymore, but you should be able to find a copy online if you look in the right places.

I feel like Adobe has seriously missed a beat with Lightroom, is it too much to ask that I can see every single file on my system without the whole app slowing to a halt? If anybody has a modern solution to this problem, I would love to hear it, but for now, I will continue to use my antique Google app.

About the author: Danny M. Thompson is a photographer based in Manchester, UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Thompson’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

This is the Sky Replacement Feature Coming to Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop will soon be getting a powerful Sky Replacement feature that lets you instantly swap skies in and out of your photos with a click. Here’s a 3-minute video that offers a sneak peek at the AI-powered system.

The Sky Replacement feature will be found under the Edit menu.

It’ll bring up options for choosing a sky, shifting or fading the edge, making adjustments to the sky or foreground, and selecting what it should output to.

There’s a selection of preset skies you can choose from, but you can also choose your own sky photo from your computer. The sky photos can be grouped into convenient collections.

Sky Replacement automatically distinguishes between the foreground and sky of your photos. Clicking any sky automatically instantly replaces the current one. In just moments, your photo can take on drastically different looks:

“Adobe Sensei-powered models do the heavy lifting of masking and blending,” Adobe product manager Meredith Stotzner says in the video.

The AI also uses algorithms to “harmonize the foreground of your image with the sky.” What this means is that as you change the sky, Photoshop will automatically adjust the colors and lighting of the foreground to match the sky, making the photo more believable.

If you only want a portion of a sky photo to be used in your shot, you can resize the sky with a Scale slider and then click and drag it around in your photo. And as you scale or reposition the sky, the look of the foreground will continually be updated to match it.

An original photo before Sky Replacement magic.
Using one portion of a sky photo gives the foreground cool blue tones.
Dragging to the sunset portion of the sky photo gives the foreground warm tones.

“What’s the most powerful part of this feature? The full force of Photoshop that’s preserved with every layer, mask, and non-destructive adjustment,” Stotzner says.

Adobe first teased a SkyReplace feature back at Adobe MAX 2016, but Skylum beat Adobe to the punch by releasing its own AI-powered automatic sky replacement in Luminar 4 back in July 2019.

If you’re a Photoshop user who has been waiting patiently for the technology to be released, the good news is that your wait will be coming to an end very shortly. Adobe says it will be sharing more about this feature at the virtual Adobe MAX 2020 conference that’ll be held October 20-22.

If Your iPhone Has a Green Dot in iOS 14, Your Camera May Be Spying On You

If you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 14 already, you may have noticed a little green dot at the top of your screen when using certain apps. It’s a new security feature Apple came up with to help you have peace of mind about your camera privacy.

When you see the little green dot, that means that there’s an app that’s actively using your iPhone’s camera. If you see an orange dot, that means an app is using your microphone.

“An indicator appears at the top of your screen whenever an app is using your microphone or camera,” Apple says. “And in Control Center, you can see if an app has used them recently.”

What this means is that if you see a green dot but aren’t aware of any app needing your camera, there may be an app secretly accessing the camera to spy on you.

Swiping down to open your control center will show you exactly which app was responsible for the camera use.

If you find an app abusing your camera, you can revoke its camera permissions in your Settings app to make sure it doesn’t happen again (assuming you don’t want to delete the app entirely).

This change is part of a push by Apple to give users more confidence about their privacy through transparency. MacBooks have long had a green light next to the webcam that turns on with the camera, and now iPhones have a digital version of that same indicator.

MacBook laptops have long had a physical green indicator light that serves the same purpose.

In July of this year, Instagram was found to turn on the iPhone’s “camera on” indicator even when users weren’t taking photos. This week, an Instagram user based in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Facebook in federal court in San Francisco, accusing Instagram of intentionally and secretly using the camera to collect “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.”

The complaint says that by “obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes,” Instagram and Facebook collect “valuable insights and market research.”

Facebook has stated that the “camera on” notification was simply a software bug that triggered a false notification when the camera wasn’t actually being accessed or used.

Apple’s new iOS 14 camera notification dot should help ease iPhone users’ fears of this type of privacy issue.

Canon and Fujifilm Release Updated Webcam Utilities

Canon and Fujifilm have both released updates to their respective webcam utilities, which allow their customers to use their still photography cameras as webcams for online video conference calls.

Canon Out of Beta

Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility was first released for Windows back in April, but now Canon has brought that version of the software out of beta. Along with the official launch comes an increased range of supported programs and cameras.

Here is a list of programs now supported on Windows:

  • Cisco Webex
  • Messenger
  • Streamlabs
  • Discord
  • Microsoft Teams
  • YouTube Live
  • LIVE Facebook Live
  • Open Broadcaster Software
  • ZOOM
  • Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Hangouts Meet
  • Slack

Here are the over 40 Canon cameras now supported by the software (the ones marked with * are the recently added ones):

  • EOS-1D C *
  • EOS-1D X *
  • EOS-1D X Mark II
  • EOS-1D X Mark III
  • EOS 5D Mark III *
  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EOS 5DS
  • EOS 5DS R
  • EOS 6D *
  • EOS 6D Mark II
  • EOS 60D *
  • EOS 7D *
  • EOS 7D Mark I1
  • EOS 70D *
  • EOS 77D
  • EOS 80D
  • EOS 90D
  • EOS M200 *
  • EOS M50
  • EOS M6 Mark II
  • EOS R
  • EOS R5 *
  • EOS R6 *
  • EOS Ra *
  • EOS Rebel SL1 *
  • EOS Rebel SL2
  • EOS Rebel SL3
  • EOS Rebel T3 *
  • EOS Rebel T3i *
  • EOS Rebel T5 *
  • EOS Rebel T5i *
  • EOS Rebel T6
  • EOS Rebel T6i
  • EOS Rebel T6s *
  • EOS Rebel T7
  • EOS Rebel T7i
  • EOS Rebel T8i *
  • EOS Rebel T100
  • EOS RP
  • PowerShot G5X Mark II
  • PowerShot G7X Mark Ill
  • PowerShot SX70 HS

Here’s a video tutorial on how to get started with using your Canon camera as a webcam on your favorite app:

You can download the Canon EOS Webcam Utility here to get started.

Fujifilm Software Gets Version 2.0

Fujifilm has updated its free FUJIFILM X Webcam software to version 2.0 on both Windows and Mac. Version 1 was originally released back in May. It’s a minor update that brings a new Settings window that lets users do things like choose a Film Simulation mode and adjust settings.

  1. Instant AF: Click this button to activate the Instant AF.
  2. AE Lock: Click this button to lock AE settings. Click again to unlock the settings.
  3. Digital Zoom: Choose the magnification for digital zoom.
  4. Exposure compensation: Click the +/- button or move the Exposure Compensation slider up and down to determine the level of exposure compensation.
  5. Film Simulation: Select a Film Simulation mode to be applied.
  6. White Balance: Select a White Balance setting.
  7. Color Temperature: Adjust color temperature when [Color Temperature] is selected in [White Balance].
  8. Boot option: The setting mode will be booted automatically when you connect to the camera if you check the box.

Fuji cameras currently compatible with the software are the GFX100, GFX 50S, GFX 50R, X-H1, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-T2, X-T3, and X-T4.

You can download FUJIFILM X Webcam version 2.0 here to get started.

Image credits: Header photo by Canon

TikTok Will Be Banned in the US on Sunday

The United States government just announced that the video-sharing social app TikTok and the social app WeChat will be banned in the US starting on Sunday “to protect the national security of the United States.”

President Donald Trump had signed an executive order in August to force a sale of TikTok to a US-based company. This month, TikTok began working with Oracle to spin TikTok off as an independent company in the US with a minority stake held by Oracle. The Trump administration has now decided that an arrangement in which ByteDance (the Chinese owner of TikTok) retains a majority share doesn’t resolve security concerns.

“In response to President Trump’s Executive Orders signed August 6, 2020, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) today announced prohibitions on transactions relating to mobile applications (apps) WeChat and TikTok to safeguard the national security of the United States,” reads an announcement posted to the Department of Commerce’s website. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.”

Launched in 2017, TikTok has become one of the top camera and video apps in the US with hundreds of millions of users around the world.

The US accuses the social media apps of collecting “vast swaths of data” from Americans, including network activity, location data, and browsing/search histories.

“Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP,” the Commerce Department states. “This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

Starting on Sunday, September 20th, TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the United States. The Chinese owners of the apps will also be banned from hosting them in the US starting on November 12th.

Major American websites and apps ranging from Facebook to Flickr to Twitter to Instagram have long been banned in China, which tightly controls Internet content and blocks websites and apps determined to not be in the interests of the state.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” says Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US.”

The order states that if TikTok can address the national security concerns posed by their respective apps by November 12th, this ban may be lifted.

CNBC is hearing from a Trump administration official that while WeChat is now “dead” in the US, TikTok still has a chance to make changes to continue operating in the US.

Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility Software for Windows

Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility Software for Windows is now available to download. Canon previously released a beta version for Windows. The release comes after a long beta period where it was downloaded more than 700,000 times. Most of the improvements and additions you see below came directly from responses by beta users. Updates from the … Continued

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DaVinci Resolve 16.2.7

Blackmagic Design has released DaVinci Resolve 16.2.7. This is a minor update that mainly fixes some stability issues, however, it adds support for NVDIA Ampere GPUs on Windows and Linux machines. What’s new in DaVinci Resolve 16.2.7 Support for NVIDIA Ampere GPUs on Linux and Windows systems. Addressed an issue with importing 23.976 fps ATEM … Continued

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