TIME Software

5 Cheap Must-Have Apps for Back to School

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Ready for the school year to begin? Once you’ve picked out a tablet or laptop for your student, it’s time to grab the software that will make it the most useful. We’ve found the best cheap apps and programs to help kids study, work more efficiently and keep up with their assignments.

YouCam Snap

Pictures of whiteboards, projector slides and book pages are great for notes. However, the camera apps that come with them can’t always handle these tasks well, especially if it’s not possible to take pictures head on.

YouCam Snap solves this problem. It can straighten out the curve of book pages, whiteboard text taken at an angle, and even correct the brightness and contrast to capture usable images of bright projector screens in a dark room. And the ability to output the captures as PDFs that can be annotated and shared is a big plus.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

iStudiez Pro

A digital student planner can be just as useful as its paper counterpart, especially if it syncs data across devices. iStudiez helps students keep track of class schedules and manage homework assignments, including pop-up notifications around due dates. Students can even keep track of their grades.

Price: $9.99 at the Mac App Store and $2.99 at iTunes

Looking for an Android alternative? Check out Class Buddy Student Planner for $1.99 on Google Play

Zotero

Zotero makes it easy to collect and organize information on the web as source material for research papers. When the software is installed, it detects usable content pulled up on your computer—text, images, video files, screen shots of web pages or documents, like PDF files—and gives the option to save with one click.

All of the text is searchable and tags can be assigned to each piece of content for easy organization. Once it’s paper-writing time, Zotero will create accurate citations for each item.

There are two versions of Zotero: a Firefox add-on that works across operating systems, and a standalone download for PC and Mac that plugs in to browsers. There are also plugins for MS Word and LibreOffice to make citing easier. All for free.

Price: Free at zotero.org

LibreOffice

If you want a full-featured free office suite, LibreOffice is the best choice. It can do everything that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can do (except a very few functions only business/power users need) and can save to all the Microsoft Office file types as well as export to PDF.

The only things missing from the suite are Outlook and OneNote equivalents. If desktop email is a must-have, Thunderbird works well and has a great associated calendar app called Lightning. For notes, I suggest Evernote.

Price: Free for Windows and Mac at libreoffice.org

Looking for a good (free) mobile office suite? Check out WPS Office on Google Play and iTunes.

ezPDF Reader

PDFs are one of the most common file types students will encounter, and having an app that can read and edit them is a must. With ezPDF, students can add highlights, notes as comments, scribbles and written annotations, plus add, crop, rotate and delete pages.

Price: $2.99 on iTunes and Google Play, Free for Windows 8 at unidocs.com

Bonus: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Edition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not inexpensive, but it’s so useful for students that it’s worth the price.

Why? The top-notch voice recognition engine is able to easily to distinguish a voice from background noise, which makes it possible to get transcriptions of lectures. All a student needs is a good recording device or a smartphone with an external mic.

Price: $199 at nuance.com

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Environment

Check Out the Freezing Cold Place Where Scientists Found Life

There are close to 4,000 organisms living in the lake, which hasn’t seen sunlight for millions of years

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A subglacial lake 800 meters beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet has been discovered to contain “viable microbial ecosystems,” according to the National Science Foundation, which funded the project. The findings are the result of a 2013 drilling expedition in which researchers used a sterile, hot water drill to reach and collect samples from Lake Whillans, in the west part of the continent.

Researchers for project Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) found organisms that feed off of rocks for energy and use Carbon Dioxide as a carbon source in water and sediment samples from the lake.

MONEY Shopping

WATCH: Walmart Cuts iPhone 5c Price to 97 Cents

Major retailers are slashing prices on Apple’s iPhone ahead of a rumored new iPhone announcement in September.

TIME russia

Hollywood Stars Say Thanks But No Thanks to Russia

Western celebrities were once willing to make public appearances in Russia. With few exceptions, the stars have stopped coming

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On Aug. 14, the actor Steven Seagal arrived at Russia’s premier weapons expo and, in the company of several arms dealers, strolled to a display of automatic rifles. A crowd of reporters and onlookers gathered around to watch as he handled one of the weapons, some even climbing on top of a military vehicle in order to get a better look. Standing next to Seagal, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin then offered his thanks to the American guest and, given the state of affairs between their countries, acknowledged the costs of Seagal’s apparently undiminished affection for Russia. “A lot of people criticize him at home,” Rogozin told the crowd. “It is not an easy time for him right now.”

The words of sympathy were not misplaced. It is a challenging time for Western celebrities who have made a habit of visiting Russia, either for pleasure or profit. Since President Vladimir Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on members of the Russian elite, including Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s military-industrial complex—and anyone who does business with the targeted officials risks being sanctioned as well. But for Western celebrities the more immediate danger of a visit to Russia is the damage it could do to a star’s career, says Samuel Aroutiounian, the leading go-between for Russians seeking to hire Hollywood stars to attend events in Russia.

In the decade he has spent in this business, working as a celebrity talent broker for a New York City-based agency called Platinum Rye, Aroutiounian says it’s never been more difficult to line up appearances in Russia, not even basic endorsement deals with Russian companies. The offer of bigger paychecks—which usually range from five to seven figures, depending on the caliber of the star and the outrageousness of the event—has not done much to change their minds. “These people are already super rich,” he says of the celebrities. “So they’re much more concerned about not killing their careers.” And in the current political climate, he says, “They don’t know what will happen to them when they come back home, you know? They will take a lot of heat.”

Even a year ago this was not an issue. The growth in the Russian market for Hollywood movies, as well as what had been gradual improvements in the country’s image in the West, had helped persuade some of the biggest names in Hollywood, like Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, to make appearances in Russia in the last few years. The local advertising market proved enticing enough in 2010 for Bruce Willis to do a series of ads for a Russian lender called Trust Bank. (In his TV commercials, Willis is shown getting ready to jump out of a speeding van during a car chase when his cell phone rings. “Hello,” he says, “this is Trust Bank, how can I help you?”)

Later that year, a Russian charity asked Aroutiounian to bring as many stars as possible to its gala in St. Petersburg, failing to mention that Putin would use it as a chance to make his musical debut. “I just brought whoever was available,” the broker recalls. “It was winter in St. Petersburg, so for some people it was too cold. Other people had family time, because it was around Christmas.” When Putin got on the stage to sing, wearing a black suit with an open collar, a whole stable of Hollywood celebrities stood up to applaud his rendition of “Blueberry Hill”, including Kevin Costner, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Vincent Cassel and Monica Belucci. “It was one of those moments,” Aroutiounian says, “when even I was, like, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’” (In the clip of Putin’s performance, which has been viewed nearly four million times on YouTube, Aroutiounian stands next to a cheerfully applauding Sharon Stone.)

Like Putin’s many other Hollywood-flavored appearances—including the times he went to watch martial arts with Jean-Claude Van Damme—the “Blueberry Hill” stunt did not merely serve to indulge his vanity. It also helped demonstrate to his electorate and to his foreign detractors that Russia was not a pariah state. It showed that its leader, for all his public posturing with weapons and heavy machinery, wanted to be liked, and without the applause and the acceptance of the international beau monde, his charisma would come up a little short.

Until the events of this year, many American stars saw little problem with their role in this equation, says Howard Bragman, a long-time Hollywood publicist. “Most of the young stars today have no idea what the Cold War is or was, unless they did a movie about it,” he says. “Russia just doesn’t leave the same taste in their mouths that it does for people who are older.” The only downside, he says, is when stars get mixed up in politics that their handlers failed to warn them about, as in the infamous case of Hillary Swank.

In 2011, the two-time Oscar-winning actress went to the Russian region of Chechnya, where she had been hired to celebrate the birthday of its Kremlin-appointed ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov. The resulting outcry from human rights organizations, which have criticized Kadyrov’s record, prompted Swank to apologize for having graced the occasion with her presence. “Shame on me,” she said on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, promising to give her six-figure paycheck for the engagement to charity. “The bottom line is that I should know where I’m going, and do better research.”

Aroutiounian, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, says the pitfalls of the Swank affair now apply not only to Chechnya but to the rest of Russia as well. “Everybody knows what happened when Hillary Swank went to Russia,” he says. “Since Russia is basically in a war right now, everybody is laying low.”

Well, not everybody. There are some American actors who still visit Russia. Mickey Rourke, who came to Red Square on Aug. 11 to buy a T-shirt imprinted with Putin’s face, called the Russian President a “real gentleman,” but added that his primary interest in the motherland was his Russian girlfriend. Seagal took things a bit further. Before touring the arms market on Aug. 14, he became the first American celebrity to visit Crimea since its annexation, giving a performance with his blues band in the city of Sevastopol. Hugging it out afterward with the leader of the Russian biker gang who organized the concert, Seagal declared, “I am Russian,” referring to his Russian ancestry. The crowd went wild, though the statement was nothing new for Seagal. He has long expressed his admiration for Russia and praised what he calls its “wonderful” leadership, and the crisis in Ukraine has apparently done nothing to change his mind.

It has, however, obliged him to take more criticism than usual for his visits to Russia, and it seems to be getting him down. In a statement published on his website on Aug. 13, he said he was “once again deeply saddened” by the Western coverage of his concert in Crimea. “Sadly,” he wrote, “we live in a world where any form of innocence can be twisted for sensational headlines and maybe dark political motives.” Seeing that need to defend his innocence after another appearance in Russia, other stars could be forgiven for simply choosing to stay away.

TIME viral

Oh, Look: Robert Pattinson Did the Ice Bucket Challenge, Too

He accepted Zac Efron's nomination, and the result is hilarious

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Celebrities are really into nominating each other for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge right now and then posting the videos all over social media. Well, on Tuesday, Zac Efron nominated his famous buddy Robert Pattinson, even though he’s virtually invisible on social media.

It’s a bit of a surprise that he actually went through with the challenge. He ended up simply tasking Efron with sharing the video on his behalf.

After the Twilight star thanks Efron for the nomination, somebody dumps a pot of ice cubes over his head. Then someone else sprays him with a hose. When he thinks it’s all over, he lists his own nominations while ice cubes (and red Solo cups) are chucked at him.

Man, this really makes us wish he did the whole social media thing. Maybe the positive reactions to this video will make him come around.

TIME celebrities

George Takei: ‘Being Optimistic Is Ensuring Your Success’

The star is the subject of a new documentary

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There’s a Japanese word that shows up repeatedly in the new documentary, To Be Takei (Aug. 22) about the life of George Takei: “gaman.”

“Gaman translates into English as ‘to endure with dignity, or fortitude,’” the Star Trek actor tells TIME. Gaman was, he says, a source of strength for Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II — and he would know. Takei spent his childhood, up until almost his 9th birthday, in such a place. Even after the internment ended, the young Takei found himself in a hostile world, where housing and employment for Japanese-Americans were scarce, and his family, penniless after the war, lived on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

And gaman continued to prove necessary as Takei got older. When he became an actor, his first roles were ones he regretted even before filming them, stereotypical Asian caricatures he says his agent convinced him were worth it for the visibility. And, even after his acting career was established, he faced different struggles as a gay man — first with concealing his sexuality, later with getting the right to marry.

But he endured. As he tells TIME, he did so with a smile.

“I think being optimistic is ensuring your success. If you start out saying ‘I’ve got this problem or I’m angry at that,’ you will not succeed,” he says. “My father said, ‘Be confident of who you are, but also work hard to be the best that you can be.’”

It’s clear by now that his optimism is well-founded. The science-fiction devices he used on Star Trek have become reality (except, he notes, for the transporter), he’s married, he’s enjoying a major wave of popularity — and, of course, he’s the star of a movie about himself.

“The future,” he says, “is today.”

Read more about George Takei in this week’s TIME.

TIME Video Games

Star Wars: Commander Is Slow-Going Unless You Pay Up

All of the game's content is available for free--so long as you're willing to wait for it.

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Disney’s new freemium real-time strategy game Star Wars: Commander just arrived on Apple’s App Store in the U.S. as a time-limited exclusive for iOS devices (there’s an Android version coming shortly).

Don’t confuse it with Star Wars: Force Commander, another real-time strategy game released back in 2000 for Windows by now-Disney-owned studio LucasArts. It was a mess of a game–one of several failed attempts to give players a thoughtful, strategic window into the iconic Star Wars universe. To this day, no one’s succeeded.

So Commander is interesting because it’s the closest thing we’ve had to a thoughtful, strategy-minded Star Wars game–boardgames notwithstanding–in years. The only downer: it’s a free-to-play-slow, pay-to-play-faster game.

I’ve been noodling with it this morning, and it’s your garden variety real-time strategy game: kit out a base, build and upgrade structures, then deploy troops to slug it out in Star Wars-ian locales. After stepping through a few tutorial exercises that illustrate where to tap to buy things and how to tap to deploy units in combat, you’re allowed to throw in with either the Rebellion or the Empire, the difference between the two a matter of campaign storyline and playable unit types. Choose the Empire and you can trot out AT-ATs and Tie Fighters. Favor the Rebellion and you’ll have access to individuals like Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia.

Underlying the economy are crystals, credits and alloy. Refineries and credit markets produce alloy and credits respectively. You purchase structures and units with the latter two, though these accrue at ridiculously slow speeds (as in “go-do-something-else-for-several-hours” slow), and which you have to harvest manually by tapping on the producing structures. Automation is apparently beyond warring factions with ultra-high-tech weaponry, but then that’s how the developers get you to pay attention to just how little your factories are generating at a given interval.

If you want to speed things up, you can pay real money for greenish “crystals” at price intervals of $100, $50, $20, $10 or $5, which in turn let you buy oodles of credits or alloy, as well as pay for protection (presumably against hostile incursions by other players, since the game also supports PvP battles). Fairly warned: if you dislike freemium games that lock most of their gameplay behind punitively slow resource generation clocks, you’re not going to like Commander at all.

What makes it feel like a Star Wars game? The retro gliding yellow-letter intro, of course. The character likenesses, with voice work not by the original actors but plausible analogues. Mostly John William’s unforgettable musical motifs, with signature flourishes from flutes, french horns and trumpets ebbing or swelling in the background obligingly. If you want some insight into the nerd-lore propping up the game’s logistics, GamesBeat interviewed one of the game’s producers about that (preview: it sounds like the Rebels are scavenging Clone Wars tech).

But since Star Wars was never about the battlefield minutia or the specifics of this or that piece of Separatist technology, it does start to feel a little like a generic real-time strategy template overlaid with a Star Wars-ian one. On the other hand, that sums up most Star Wars games: vanilla ice cream with dollops of Star Wars sauce. It’s also clearly Disney spooling up its Star Wars turbolaser in advance of Star Wars: Rebels, its animated Clone Wars TV series followup set half a decade before the events of the original Star Wars movie.

I should caution that Commander has launch quirks, in particular one where I minimized the game, then reloaded it, only to have it claim I’d launched a second instance on a second device, thus squelching the first one (in general, the game seems to hate minimization). It’s also arguably a poor fit, visually speaking, for a 4-inch iPhone: while you can zoom on the maps, the interface panels and text are just too small to use comfortably (like 22Cans’ Godus, Commander probably should have been tablet-only). Assuming Apple’s next iPhone has a significantly bigger screen, I’d reconsider that position. Barring that, I wouldn’t bother unless you have at least an iPad Mini.

TIME 2014 Election

This Democratic Senator Is Running on Obamacare in a Surprising New Ad

Hell freezes over

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Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is running in one of the tightest reelection races in the country, facing freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a U.S. Army veteran. So it may come as some surprise that in Pryor’s new ad released Wednesday, he chose to hone in on his support of President Barack Obama’s unpopular healthcare law.

In the personal new ad, Pryor’s father, David, a former senator himself, talks about his son’s battle with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 1996. “When Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we thought we might lose him,” David Pryor says in a voiceover. “But you know what? Mark’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for the treatment that ultimately saved his life.”

By opening up about the struggle for his own life, Pryor aims to connect with his constituents. “No one should be fighting an insurance company when you’re fighting for your life,” he says in the ad. “That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you’re sick or deny coverage from preexisting conditions.”

Pryor’s ad does at least three things right. First, he hones in on the most popular aspect of the Affordable Care Act: coverage for those with preexisting conditions, which has support across the aisle. “We all agree that nobody should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition,” David Ray, a Cotton campaign spokesman, told TIME in an emailed statement.

Second, Pryor’s ad doesn’t use the term “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act’s nickname first coined by its critics. A Kaiser Health Tracking poll released August 1 found that a little over half of the public—53%—have an unfavorable view of Obamacare. But when referred to by a different name, the law’s negative ratings can decrease, polls show. One Kentucky poll in May found that while 57% of registered voters disliked “Obamacare,” only 22 percent had unfavorable views of Kynect, the state exchange created as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s passage in 2010.

Third, the ad includes his father, a former Congressman, Senator and Governor who is still a popular advocate despite being out of office for the better part of two decades.

And as Pryor runs on Obamacare, Senate Republican candidates and their supporters across the country have backed off on their attacks against the law. In April, anti-Obamacare advertising accounted for 54 percent of the issue ads in North Carolina, and almost all ads in Louisiana were focused on the health care law, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, as reported by Bloomberg. But by July, that number dropped to 27% in North Carolina and 41% in Louisiana.

This shift could be for a variety of reasons, including a renewed focus on the economy and jobs in this election cycle. But Republicans might also be reacting to a law that beat expectations, with higher enrollment figures and fewer than expected cancelled plans (1.9 million versus the purported 4.8 million, according to Health Affairs.) In Arkansas, the law reduced the percentage of uninsured from 22.5% to 12.4% over last year, according to Gallup. That 10.1% decline is the largest of any state in the nation.

Of course, Republicans stated goal on Obamacare remains “repeal and replace,” and ads could reemerge this fall even if premiums don’t increase. David Ray, a campaign spokesman for Pyror’s opponent, Cotton, told TIME in an emailed statement that the aforementioned pre-existing condition provision makes sense, but overall the law should be overturned as it raises health care costs and taxes and lowers wages.

“We thank God that Senator Pryor survived cancer, and we admire his courage in that fight,” wrote Ray. “However, we didn’t need Obamacare to change insurance regulations. We all agree that nobody should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Obamacare raises taxes on the middle class, has caused millions of Americans to lose insurance plans they were promised they could keep, has doubled or even tripled premiums on families who can’t afford it, has caused lost wages and hours at work, and is preventing many small businesses from growing and hiring more people. Further, Senator Pryor has supported a taxpayer-funded bailout of big insurance companies that lose money as a result of Obamacare. We need to start over with reform that makes healthcare more affordable and keeps healthcare decisions between patients and doctors.”

TIME Television

Watch Jimmy Fallon Give Jared Leto an Unexpected Trim

The Tonight Show transforms into a barber shop

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Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon happened to have an electric trimmer when actor Jared Leto stopped by on Wednesday. Leto, who left a bit less scruffy, said during the segment that Fallon was “pretty good” at trimming beards.

Leto, who is touring with his band 30 Seconds To Mars as it promotes a new single, admitted during the show that he had been growing his beard out since the Academy Awards in March, when he won an Oscar for his supporting role in Dallas Buyers Club.

TIME animals

These Men Are Hired by The Indian Government to Talk to Monkeys

"Monkey Men" impersonate the animals to shoo them away from buildings in New Delhi

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Have a monkey infestation problem?

If you’re around Delhi, India, you might want to call up Mahendra Goswami. He is a ‘Monkey Walla,’ or ‘Monkey Man,’ one of the many men hired by the Indian government to shoo monkeys away from buildings and areas where people are present.

These men entice monkeys to leave by impersonating the sounds of the aggressive langur monkey, often wearing a mask and hiding behind trees, according to the AFP. Monkeys in Delhi have been known to trash homes and gardens and have even attacked people while looking for food.

[AFP]

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