Thursday, January 12, 2017

Google Updates Google Maps Ride Services With New Features

For you ride-sharing aficionados you may have noticed that Google has been doing all they can to get more and more integration built into Google Maps. It all started last year with the introduction of ride services mode, which added the option to find information from favorite ride sharing service alongside option for walking, driving or public transit.

Over the past year Google has taken that integration to an even greater level. Now offering options for hailing your ride from most of the popular ride sharing services and even cab companies. Today, they are pushing Google Maps integration even further making it even easier for you to book a and pay for your ride directly from Google Maps, on both Android and iOS globally.

With Google's new updates, you'll now see more types of ride options and more actionable information. When you open ride services mode, instead of a long list of ride service providers and ride options, you’ll see the familiar Google map, along with a carousel of ride service providers in your area. You can then tap your preferred provider to see a complete list of ride options and special offers or promotions.


In addition to allowing you to book rides directly from Google Maps, Google is working to allow you to pay directly from within Maps without the further need for each ride sharing company's app. In Uber for instance (once you have the update) all you'll need to do is sign into your existing Uber account (or create one). Then you can book an Uber ride, track your driver on the map, and connect with your driver—all from within the Google Maps app.


Of course while you are passing the time riding with your driver Google hopes that you'll use Google Maps to look at information about your destination while en route. With just a swipe you can see everything about your favorite destination from menus, hours, photso ect.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yahoo Not Dead After-all

On Monday it was announced that Yahoo's acquisition by Verizon was almost complete. The deal would see Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, co-founder David Filo and others resigning from the company's board and the company being renamed Altaba. A move which many thought would mean that Yahoo would be no longer. Reports from today however have breathed new life into Yahoo as a brand. It now appears that much of what makes Yahoo, well the Yahoo we know, will live on under the Yahoo name.

In their U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday Yahoo said that it will shed almost everything that makes it Yahoo, including its name, when its deal with Verizon closes. This is were things are a bit confusing for some. Like many companies Yahoo is diversified and it made up of two major assets of very differing backgrounds.

The first asset, and most well know by the general public, is their worldwide network of internet portals. This makes up Yahoo.com, Yahoo Mail ect. The second major asset is a 15 percent stake in Chinese internet giant Alibaba. This is in essence what is going to remain of Yahoo Business while Monday's deal will see the company sell its portals, and its brand to Verizon for $4.8b.

Verizon is the expected to merge Yahoo's portal activities with AOL, which it bought in 2015.
In July, just after Verizon announced the Yahoo deal, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told TechCrunch: "The Yahoo brand will be staying with us for a very long period of time, we'll be investing in it."

In the end, this all means that despite the major issues Yahoo has faced over the past couple years with several major data breaches and major ups and downs with CEO Marissa Mayer. The company you most likely know Yahoo for being will still be alive and kicking. So you won't be in danger of loosing access to your Yahoo Mail account, or any of your favorite services they offer. At least not for now!

Friday, December 09, 2016

Want to Keep Using Your Galaxy Note 7 You Better Not Upgrade It After December 19th!

Samsung is fairly adamant about the fact that they don't want any of the remaining Galaxy Note 7 devices out there to cause issues. So much so that they have confirmed plans to release an update to the devices that will essentially make them useless!

In their announcement Samsung states:
Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we’ve had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program so far, with more than 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices returned.

To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th that will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.

If you have not yet returned your device, you should immediately power it down and contact your carrier to obtain a refund or exchange.

With about 93% of US sold Note 7 returned Samsung still has about 133,000 phones unaccounted for. Meaning that despite all of the warnings and offers Samsung has made., some of you are opting to hold on to your devices and run the risk of the defective batteries causing issues. While I personally wouldn't opt for that option and would have returned by device following the recall. I can understand wanting to hold on to your phone. Especially since there just isn't anything out there to fully replace it.

If you are one of the bold few that don't want to heed Samsung's warnings and don't want to take advantage of Samsung's full refund and up to a $100 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets. Then you better avoid any future software updates as it looks like they are going to do their best to brick your phones.

Update: Verizon has just confirmed that they will not be pushing the update during the holiday season as they are concerned that it may leave some customers without a device to use. they are further concerned that the update may make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation. They are however, still urging everyone to take advantage of the current offers for a full refund, exchange and/or the $100 credit.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Apple May Owe You A Free Battery Here's How to Find Out

If you are an iPhone 6S owner and have been having issues with your battery suddenly running flat or your device suddenly shutting down the problem may not just be you. It may in fact be due to a faulty battery and Apple may owe you a free replacement.

According to Apple's support page the problem affects "a very small number" of iPhone 6S handsets manufactured in September and October of 2015. The phone affected are limited to specific serial run so finding out if you are one of the afflicted is pretty easy! All you need is the serial number of your iPhone 6S and you can check it on the linked support page.

To find your iPhone 6S's serial number, go to Settings > General > About.

Once you have your serial number check it here.   If you qualify for a free battery replacement, you can take your iPhone 6S to an Apple retail store or an Apple authorized service provider, or contact Apple Support about sending in your phone for repair.

It should be noted that if you have any other issues with your phone such as a cracked screen Apple will require that it be repaired prior to replacing your battery. In either case Apple suggest that you make sure to prep your phone before you take it in, or send it off. To do so start by Back up your data to iTunes or iCloud. Then make sure you turn off Find my iPhone. Finally erase all your personal information and data by going to data and settings in Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings.

If you believe your iPhone 6s was affected by this issue, and you paid to replace your battery, you can contact Apple about a refund.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Geek Gadgets: Inateck BP1109 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Reivew

Portable Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days, so when it comes to finding one that is perfect for you your decision will often boil down to only a few things. How good the sound quality is. How portable the speaker is and how long the battery will last. Typically though,  little thought is given toward the aesthetics of  your speaker. The Inateck BP1109 might just change that!

Even though it appears as though they have been around for a few years, for most Inateck is going to be an unfamiliar name. The company offers all kinds of accessories or upgrades, including Expansion Cards, Power Supplies & Batteries, Cables & Tools, Wireless Accessories and Cell Phone Accessories. However, they specialize in HDD docking stations and enclosures as well as USB cables, chargers and other USB add-on solution. 

The Inateck BP1109 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is one of the company's newer offerings, though they have had a few different line-ups of wireless speakers in the past. The BP1109 aims to be ultra-portable without sacrificing style. It is built almost entirely from aluminum which offers a sleek modern design.

The circular design and slender 78x34mm (approx 3"x1.25") body makes it easy to slip into a bag. Unfortunately the speaker is a bit hefty. Weighing 260g which makes it conspicuous for a device of these dimensions. The weight certainly isn't ideal for carrying in a pocket! The majority of the weight comes from the reasonably-sized battery. It offers 6 hours of playback from 1-2 hours of charging.

The top of the device houses the plastic speaker grille. On the bottom, you'll find the basic control panel, a series of four buttons for volume, track transport, power, input mode and play and pause. A small panel on the back houses the charging port, 3.5mm input jack and a Micro SD card slot. You can play music over Bluetooth, via a traditional cable or directly from your Micro SD card. 

Unlike the beeps and chirps of other Bluetooth accessories, the BP1109 will say "Bluetooth on" and "Waiting for Bluetooth connection" when you turn it on, making it obvious what state the device is in. With a Micro SD card inserted into the speaker it will default to "TS Mode" and will automatically detect and play whatever media files are found on the card.

Inateck says the aluminum uni-body design enables the 3.2W speaker to project music "loud and clear" and eliminate excessive sound resonance. For the most part the circular design offers impressive volumes levels, and reasonable sound. Since the speaker is omnidirectional sound travels upward and out offering no real sense of direction or immersion which for some could be a negative. This works well however in an outdoor environment or group setting allowing for more overall sound dispersion something we saw as a bonus!

In testing sound quality was reasonable, but inconsistent based on the types of music played and overall range of the songs listened to. Songs with a heavy bass line bleed out at higher volumes, while songs with more of a mid-range focus came through loud and clear.

Conclusion
I listen to a wide range of music so I tested our Inateck BP1109 with everything from country to classical to jazz to rock and roll. I even threw in some house and heavy bass laden techno just to see where we'd stand, and all of them came through at respectable levels. Given the speaker is meant to be ultra-portable it won't knock you over, but it does offer enough volume to drown out the noisy neighbors or bother the old folks sitting pool-side force-ably listening along with you!
Pros
- Achieves great volume level with dispersive sound
- Stylish design looks good while adding to the portability
- Can play music directly from a micro SD card - a major plus in my book
Cons
- Sound quality is inconsistent and can degrade at higher volumes
- Lacking in bass output
- Surprisingly high in weight relative to its size
Sound quality and clarity of course are very subjective and we each have our own preferences here. As I previously mentioned my experience was a bit inconsistent with some songs sounding great and others 'just ok'. At $20, the speaker is well-priced and has a build quality usually reserved for more expensive devices. On form and design alone I could give it a nod above some of the other units on the market in the same price range.

Battery life is rated at 6 hours, which most manufactures in our opinion over rate. So during our testing we hadn't expected the results we actually saw! We ran our speaker for 3 straight hours with no issues. Ran it again the next day for almost another 3 hours straight and honestly ran out of testing time for our day. I was actually shocked! We didn't get to test the full out to dead time, not because the battery ran out, but because we wanted to re-charge the speaker for other tests and just couldn't keep going till it died!

Overall I'm going to say I'm really surprised with our Inateck BP1109. It is considerably louder than the rest of the BT Speakers I have in the office right now and hold a charge considerably longer than anything I've had the chance to test. I wish the sound quality was a bit better, but I'll give this speaker a thumbs up!! 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ticketmaster May See Some Real Competition Thanks to Amazon Tickets Expansion

We've all felt the pain of buying of having to buy tickets to our favorite concerts, shows and sporting events through Ticketmaster. Whether it be site issues, like constant crashes or lagging, or just the pain to our wallets from what most (like me) feel are trumped up convenience fees! Unfortunate as it is Ticketmaster holds a rather tight reign on the market. Thankfully we may soon see some real competition, and from a company that could set off some big waves!

According to reports from Ars Technica and Recode Amazon is looking to expand their Amazon Tickets Service, which until now has been a UK exclusive! The reports cite a number of job listings for Amazon Tickets positions based in Seattle, Washington found on the company's employment website. One such listing for a "Technical Program Manager, Amazon Tickets" offers the following job description:
Amazon Tickets is a start-up business with a vision of becoming Earth’s most customer-centric ticketing company, a place where event-goers can come to find and discover any ticket they might want to buy online. Amazon launched the Tickets business in the UK in 2015 and today offers customers the ability to purchase tickets to music, theater, and comedy events at great prices with a convenient purchase experience and world-class and customer support. As we grow our team to support our rapid expansion we are looking for talented individuals to join us in delighting customers and having some fun along the way.

If you are looking for opportunities to grow, and want to have fun while making history – join us!
Another listing discovered by Recode opens the door to an even more promising venture dubbed Prime Tickets. According to the report Amazon's hiring efforts are part of a new initiative to “position Amazon Tickets as the world’s premier destination for purchasing tickets.” According to the job listings Prime Tickets would integrate ticket sales into the Prime membership program, though details of how that would play out are yet unknown.

Prime Tickets, now that could be a real game changer! Exactly how Amazon could make it work is unclear, but as Ars Technica points out, it's possible that Prime Tickets could offer discounted tickets to Prime members if the service is indeed tied to the annual $99 membership.

Amazon first launched Amazon Tickets in the U.K. last year to sell tickets to concerts featuring artists like Elton John and theater performances such as “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.” Part of the company’s pitch has been that it displays ticket fees up front, and customers can easily pay with the payment method they have on file with Amazon. Expansion into other major markets means that Amazon has clearly had some success with the program. However, expansion into the US could be a bit more difficult, especially in terms of offering any sort of discount.

Live Nation (Ticketmaster's parent company) already holds a very dominant position here in the US. Which also means they hold a lot of bargaining power with venues and artits, mostly due to special deals that artists and venues strike up with ticket companies, and even some credit card companies that offer priority seating or special pricing for cardholders. Amazon would have to convince them to alter those agreements and open the door to competition, which won't be easy. If anyone can do it though it would be a company like Amazon that has more than 300 million active users and more than 50 million active Amazon Prime users.

Most of the Tickets job postings were updated within the past week, but there's no word on when a US-based Amazon Tickets could debut, or if in fact it will ever truly come to fruition. I can only hope at this point!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Play Overwatch Free For A Weekend Starting November 18th

If you haven't checked out Blizzard's Overwatch yet then here is your chance! The company is making Overwatch free to play next weekend  with full access to all 13 maps and 22 characters. For those that enjoy the game Blizzard will save your weekend's worth of progress should you choose to take the plunge and purchase the game. Just be sure to use the same Battle.net, Xbox Live or Sony Entertainment account that you played on.


The free to play weekend if open for gamers running either a PC, PS4 or Xbox One! And you'll have a full weekend of gaming excitement between November 18th and 21st! For more details and to learn how you can participate, read on below!
One thing to note is that PS4 and Xbox One players will need a PlayStation Plus and Xbox Gold subscription to take advantage of this offer while Windows PC users will be required to have a Battle.net account.