Saturday, November 28, 2015

HTC Preview Wants You to Test New Devices and Accessories

Companies are always looking for new ways to get consumer feedback surrounding some of their latest innovations. They hope to ensure that those millions, if not billions, spent in research and development and eventually in marketing are all for naught. This often leads to beta testing program, consumer outreach testing and more, which generally gives us users a great opportunity to test out and provide feedback on several of the newest products coming to market.

HTC this week has launched a new Preview program, promising just that, they want to give users "access to the latest HTC products, often before they hit the shelves". As its Preview site goes on to explain:
At HTC, we believe brilliance should be experienced, not explained. Through the HTC Preview program, we can test drive our products in the real world, allowing us to make sure the HTC experience is as best as it can be. If you would like the opportunity to shape the future and the innovation of our products, HTC Preview is for you! We are looking for people with an eye for design, a passion for technology, and a bunch of great ideas to join us in the pursuit of brilliance.
According to the HTC Preview site those who sign up will have the opportunity to test upcoming software changes on their own HTC devices, as well as the opportunity to test entirely new hardware (devices, accessories and others), for up to ten weeks. As with most new product testing sites you will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement - or, as HTC calls it, "the HTC Trial Program Agreement" - preventing you from discussing any of the products that you test with anyone else. And, of course, at the end of the trial period, you'll also have to return any devices that you get to test.

The Preview program is now open in the US, Europe and Asia and is open to just about anyone to sign-up. You will need to be 18 yrs of age or older, have an email account with Google Play Store access, this is for software downloads, and in some cases an HTC device will be required (if you don't own one they will pair you up with a suited project according to your profile). 

Other requirements include being asked to support any survey, photo or screenshot requests. For example, in a project where the emphasis is on camera features, you would be expected to take lots of pictures in order to test the full HTC camera experience and you may be asked to share a few of those photos.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Microsoft's Windows Store Offers Over 1000 Movies, Apps and Music For Just 10 Cents

Looking to stock up on movies and music this holiday season? Microsoft has you covered with their new 10 Days of 10 Cent Deals promotion featuring over 1,000 of the latest Hollywood movies, blockbuster music, must-have apps, and addictive games – for only 10 cents each.

Building upon what has been seen as the hugely successful launch of Windows 10, which Microsoft says is now running on over 110 million devices, Microsoft has launched a new promotion offering Windows 10 users access to tons of movies, music, apps and more for only a dime.

The “10 Days of 10 Cent Deals” promotion will feature new selections each day in the Windows Store offering Windows 10 users access to movies to rent including "Jurassic World," "Terminator Genisys" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" as well as music to purchase such as today's top hits including "What Do You Mean," by Justin Bieber, "All of Me," by John Legend, and "Timber," by Pitbull.

These deals will change daily, and there is no guessing what will be on sale or available next. So users should make sure to check back each day so as to not miss out on a great deal!

Monday, November 16, 2015

FAA Issues Drone Registration Scam Warning Says Don't Pay Others to Register Your Drone

Hobbyist worried about pending regulations that require everyone flying a drone to register them are being warned by the FAA about potential scams involving third parties profiting off what might be a very simple registration process.

While drone registration is not yet required, and the process to register those drones as not yet been finalizes, it appears as though some companies may have taken to profiteering by offering services that would make it easier for any user to register there drones with the FAA. However, the Federal Aviation Administration is telling hobbyist to hold off on jumping the gun and to think twice before signing up with any company that promises to register your drone for a fee.

The FAA is telling all drone owners that they should wait until additional details about the forthcoming drone registration system are announced later this month before paying anyone to do the work for them. Stating that the process won't be much different than registering products with their manufacturers and that you can "probably" do it yourself whenever the program actually kicks in.

The FAA has setup a Task Force assigned with providing FAA Administrator Michael Huerta with recommendations on the registration process. Administrator Huerta told the group to provide guidance on a streamlined unmanned aircraft registration process that will be simple and easy to complete, and which types of UAS would need to be registered and which would not. The Task Force agreed and is working on recommendations for a system that is similar to registering any newly purchased product with its manufacturer as well as minimum weight for unmanned aircraft that must be registered.

While the recommendation from the task force are still pending and the FAA has not finalized any of the details. They have noted that at least one company is already offering to help people register their drones for a fee. Prompting them to issue today's warning. In short, anyone asking for your money right now is only taking advantage of the system and is being an opportunist.

Drone owners should visit for official updates on the unmanned aircraft registry. There is no word on when the registry will be up and running and again there are no specific regulations finalized at this time!

Get Early Previews of New Features With Microsoft's Office Insider Program

Taking a page from the very popular Windows Insider Program Microsoft has launched a new early preview and testing feature for Microsoft Officer users dubbed Office Insider.The program runs similar to Windows Insider in that it gives users early access to Microsoft Office's newest features allowing you to test them out and provide feedback for Microsoft for potential changes.

For now, the program encompasses the Windows and Android versions of Office, and is open to Office 365 Home, Business, and University users: All you need to do to join Office Insider is to have an active Office 365 account and download and install the Office Insider build. Mac users will have to wait a bit: Microsoft says that it will provide Office Insider builds for OS X “in the coming months.” If you have an Office 365 business or enterprise plan, you can join First Release, which will similarly offer you early access to new product updates and features as they become available

The program will provide preview versions of almost all of your favorite Office 2016 applications including:
  • Excel
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • Access
For those interested, instructions on how to become an Office Insider are now live, with directions on how to access various Office previews. You can check out more details on Office 2016 and what's new to the program suite here and be sure to checkout the Office 2016 Quick Start Guides.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Get The Best PC For Your Buying Dollar This Holiday Season

Apple's CEO Tim Cook this week may have questioned "Why would you buy a PC anymore", but the cold hard truth is many of us are still turning to laptops and desktops when it comes to filling the need for speed, power and raw multi-tasking. Ironic as Cook's statements seem to be that happens to be a good thing for Apple as they just recently reported record sales of Macs!

Like most geeks we have held fast to our belief that no matter how great that tablet or smartphone may be and how much you can accomplish with them these days. When it comes to performance you just can't compete with the capabilities of a full blown desktop, high-end laptop or a newer Intel 2in1 device.

When it comes to buying the best device to suite all your needs there are several schools of thought, all of which generally involve weighing your overall actual wants and needs. We know this can more often than not be extremely confusing especially during the upcoming holiday shopping season when we start seeing lots of bargains. So we've put together a little guide that we hope will help you out.

Desktops offer the most performance, upgrade-ability and longevity!

When it comes down to pure outright computing power nothing has yet to displace the Intel based desktop at the top. Even at what is considered the entry level you'll see more performance for day to day tasks than the average user would ever need. In addition to offering great performance desktops offer something few other platforms do, the ability to be upgraded and repaired which in turn gives them an incredible amount of longevity.

A $400-500 investment in a desktop today should very easily net you 4-5 good years of hard work, whereas most people purchasing tablets or smartphones at similar costs are generally swapping devices every couple years. Of course there is some trade-off, you obviously don't get the portability, but the overall investment is generally the best return. Steeping up and making a bit higher purchase now in the $700-800 or even the $800-1000 range will net you even more bang for your buck as you'll get much improved hardware that should be a little more 'future-proof' (a term I actually hate).

When looking at purchasing a desktop I almost always give then same one line of advice, "Buy The Best You Can Afford At This Time!" This doesn't mean you need to run out and buy the newest CPU's, the fastest or most RAM or dump $2000-3000 on a new machine. In fact, unless you are a gamer, you can avoid all of the above and get a great machine that will still offer you the best bang for your buck!

What it does mean though is try to keep a balance and learn where you can 'skimp' and where you can't. Typically you want the best CPU and GPU you can buy and can skimp on easier upgrades like RAM and hard drives, both of which are much easier and cheaper to upgrade down the road if needed. I always suggest avoiding slimline or none traditional cases as they can really limit your upgrade options down the road. During the holidays you also want to avoid the luster of those cheap $200-300 deals as they generally feature lower-end CPUs that may be perfectly fine for some basic uses they just don't offer the best in performance. Try to stick with an Intel Core i5 or better, or for more performance an Intel Core i7. Also try to stick with the newest generations.

Laptops and Intel 2-in-1's offer the most balance for the money!

When it comes getting the most overall value laptops and especially the new Intel 2in1 devices are hard to beat. Your costs might be a little more upfront when looking at a one to one comparison to a desktop but the benefit of portability can easily outweigh any performance that might be lost by going with a laptop over a comparably priced desktop. And while most of us geeks hate to use the words desktop replacement with today's technology and performance we are seeing from laptops and Intel 2in1 devices you really are given a full desktop replacement option.

Selecting a laptop or 2-in-1 device brings up a completely different set of questions and factors from trying to find a desktop. First and foremost is going to be deciding on use and how much portability you really need. If you are someone in school, working or always on the go then you'll likely want something that is slimmer and lightweight, more compact and easily carried which generally means smaller screen size. If you are a big gamer or need something with a ton more power or are someone that doesn't plan on totting that laptop with you everywhere you go then you can opt for a heftier package and in the end a larger screen.

I've always recommended getting a super portable option that packs the most power you can get. My train of thought is a simple one, most people start using their laptops on the go more than they generally think they would and having the most portable option you can get now saves you later. Additionally, monitors are cheap these days (heck most of us have an HDTV) making it easier and more cost effective to add a larger secondary screen down the road if you need to.

I personally opt for a 2-in-1 device, preferably something with a detachable or convertible screen. This gives me the option of using it both as a traditional laptop when I need my keyboard and more multi-tasking and tablet when I'm just doing my basic tasks.  I also look for as many connections as possible. I suggest HDMI so you can easily get video out (great for sharing to a TV), and at least two if not three usb ports. I connect a couple external devices like my usb mouse and hard drive so more ports are needed. Windows 10 these days is also a must have for me (it is still free as an upgrade but nice to have right out of the box!).

Closing thoughts on holiday PC shopping

As I mentioned above a few times, I always try to avoid some of the flashy low costs sales items of the holiday season especially when it comes to laptops and desktops. Generally these cheaper deals are cheaper for a reason and that is typically because they are lower specs or older tech. Saying that doesn't mean some of the deals aren't going to be great, especially deals in the mid to high end range, I'm talking more about the cheap, get you in the door $150-250 deals you see.

Again, if you are looking for something to last a few years and give your more bang for your buck you want to buy the best you can at this time. If you just want something that will 'make due for now' then those deals might work out for you. Just be sure to weigh the pro's and con's of each option.

So now the big question, what are you planning on buying this holiday season? Are you going to be out shopping for Black Friday 2015? And if so what tech deals are you looking at? Comment below and let us know!

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Roku to Offer New $50 Entry-Level Streaming Device For $25 On Black Friday

For those of you out there that are looking to jump into the video steaming game and aren't swayed by the low cost of the Google Chromecast and Amazon's Fire devices, Roku may have just announced a product that is right for you. Today, the hardware maker revealed a low-cost version of its Roku player, the Roku SE, which will be affordably priced at $49.99 and heavily discounted to $25 for Black Friday.

As an entry level device we won't see all of the same features you see packed into the Roku 4 or other similar models that are currently available (or $25 what'd you really expect?). The Roku SE will however pack plenty of punch for most users with full WiFi support and streaming capabilities for up to 1080p video streaming (not 4K obviously). We will also see both HDMI and analog connections for support for older TVs as well as the  newly released Roku OS 7 operating system, which will provide access to Roku’s nearly 3,000 streaming channels offering 300,000 movies and TV episodes.

The Roku SE is also compatible with the Roku Mobile App for iOS or Android giving you access to key features such as Roku Search, Roku Feed, Remote Control, Play on Roku and more from your phone. The SE will also support casting content from a mobile device to the TV via specific streaming channels or the Roku Mobile App.

What you won’t see are features like an Ethernet port, voice search or the remote finder function and while Roku didn’t publish the detailed specs for the new device, it’s likely to have downgraded internals to help keep the cost low.So don't expect a powerhouse here!

Roku has said this special edition Roku player will be available in the U.S. for a limited-time only during Black Friday weekend online and at select national retailers starting 11/26. So you might want to snatch yours up quickly! If you'd like more details they can be found via the Roku SE product page.

Amazon Underground App Selection Triples After Just Two Months

Just two short months after its launch Amazon Underground has seen great success with the program seeing more developers joining the fold and cashing in on the revolutionary new program by offering more and more apps for customers. According to a recent statement by Amazon that success and interest has meant that the program has more than tripled the already impressive collections of free premium apps and games.

“In just the first two months since launch, we’ve tripled the free selection of apps and games in Amazon Underground and continue to add more content every day. Customers can now experience the entire world of Monument Valley for free. They’ll also receive nearly $50 in value of in-app items for reef building in Nemo’s Reef,” said Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Appstore. “In Amazon Underground, customers have access to apps, games and in-app items, such as extra lives and levels, completely free—providing an entirely new way to enjoy their favorite apps and games.”

Amazon Underground launched in August as a new way to connect developers with customers by offering them 100% free games and apps as well as premium in-app content. The program allowed developers to offer free content by opting to earn money not from the customer directly for that content or app, but rather as a direct per-minute payment from Amazon.

This new monetization model has clearly been a success for many developers and has been a big hit with customers:

“We’ve been thrilled with the performance of Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninja as part of the Amazon Underground program in the month since launch,” said Shainiel Deo, CEO of Halfbrick Studios. “Thus far we have doubled the downloads and revenue from our apps in the Amazon Appstore and most interestingly, customers are engaging with our in-app purchase content within our games at an extremely high rate. Since all in-app purchases are free in Amazon Underground, they can play the games in new and exciting ways.”

“We included four of our popular titles in Amazon Underground at launch, aimed at reaching as many fans as possible in the Amazon ecosystem,” said Tero Raji, SVP of Game Business at Rovio. “In the first month since launch of these games, the Amazon Underground model has brought us up to three times more revenue compared to the same games’ user revenue in the Amazon Appstore previously.”

Amazon Underground includes all of the functionality of the regular Amazon mobile shopping app, plus an exclusive selection of 100% free apps, games, and associated in-app items, including popular games like Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Goat Simulator, Frozen Free Fall, Looney Tunes Dash! and many more. For example, in Frozen Free Fall—an app that is free to install and usually requires in-app purchases to unlock additional levels—customers can play with unlimited lives and will receive many bonus in-app items in the Amazon Underground version of the app completely free ($31.87 value).

Amazon Underground is available on Android phones and on Fire tablets, including the all-new Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10, and Fire, the groundbreaking new tablet for under $50. To learn more about Amazon Underground, visit:

Monday, November 09, 2015

Groupon Begins Offering Refunds In Class Action Settlement

Great news for you folks that may have purchased Groupon deals between November 1, 2008 and December 1, 2011 and never actually got around to redeeming them. Thanks to a recently settled class action lawsuit you may be entitled to a refund in the amount of 130% of the purchase price of those unredeemed Groupons -- of course this in the form of credits toward future Groupons but it is a refund nonetheless.

In 2012 aggravated Groupon customers filed and won a class action lawsuit claiming that Groupon had violated federal laws prohibiting vouchers from expiring. At that time a settlement was then reached in the two cases, Groupon, Inc. Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, No. 3:11-md- 02238-DMS-RBB and the related action, Dremak v. Groupon, Inc., No. 11-CH-0876 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Kane County), however that previous settlement was vacated and a new settlement was reached with Groupon agreeing to pay up to $8.5 million to settle up with customers who can validated claims that they were affected.

Under the terms of the settlement any customer that bought and received a voucher through Groupon between November 2008 and December 2011 are eligible for the refunds. To receive the settlement award, however, you'll need the barcode of the original voucher you never used (hopefully you still have it or can access it). Groupon will need those to verify that you never actually redeemed your deal.

The amount of Groupon Credits given to Settlement Class Members may be increased or decreased depending on the number and value of valid Claims submitted. Groupon Credits to be paid on valid Claims will be automatically deposited in Class Members’ Groupon accounts following the effective Date of settlement, and pending approval of the judge which isn't expected until Feb 2016. If you no longer have an active Groupon account, you may contact Groupon at 1-888-664-4482 or to reopen an account for the purpose of receiving Groupon Credits under the Settlement Agreement.

More information regarding the Settlement Agreement, your rights under the Settlement Agreement, instructions on how to be excluded from the Settlement Agreement or object to the Settlement Agreement, and a Claim Form to complete to obtain benefits under the Settlement Agreement are available here: The last day to submit a completed Claim Form to receive Groupon Credits is January 9, 2016.

Google Maps Helps You Find Holiday Hours For Your Favorite Places

Holiday shopping is generally stressful enough without having to worry about keeping track of those ever changing holiday hours at your favorite locations. Luckily Google Maps can now help you out with that by offering a full list of holiday hours to Maps and Search. So when you search for a business and a major holiday is within the next seven days, you’ll see whether the business has a special holiday schedule. Not only will you avoid showing up to find the doors locked, but you’ll save time by not having to call the business or check the website for hours.

The holiday hours will be shown on the business place card just like the rest of the traditional information given from Google. In order to find if your favorite stores are open, or what else might be open as the holiday draws close, just search for a place and if the holiday hours are listed, you’ll see them. If you search for a business and the holiday hours aren’t listed, you’ll see a warning message alerting you that the actual hours may be different because of the holiday.

Google states the new feature is available just about everywhere you search and anywhere you might want to go. Because holiday hours and warnings are available globally, if you happen to be celebrating Boxing Day in the UK or New Year’s Eve in Sweden, you’ll see info specific to the country you’re in. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

See A Glimpse Inside Star Wars: The Force Awakens Thanks to New Character Posters

We've all seen the newest trailers hinting at the long awaited arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, today however we get a little closer glimpse at some of our favorite characters of old as well as some of the new additions thanks to Disney and the new character posters.

The official character posters for Rey, Leia, Kylo Ren, Han Solo, and Finn were revealed today, you'll likely notice the continued absence of Luke Skywalker as he still hasn't made it into any of the  promotional material that has been released as of yet. According to J.J. Abrams and the rest of the cast, there’s a very good reason for that, though there has been very little hinted at beyond that. It looks like we’ll continue to be kept in the dark and forced to wait until the movie hit theaters in order to discover why the hero of the original trilogy is being kept in the shadows.

Hopefully for us not seeing it on the first few days we can avoid some of the spoilers!!

Here are all of the latest images we have and if you have been in hiding and haven't seen the official  trailer and teaser (how dare you) you can view it here and the teasers video 1 and video 2.

I know this geeks is dying to see the new movie, what about you guys? Did you get your pre-orders in for the release or one of the first few show times?