Friday, June 24, 2016

Steam's 2016 Summer Sale Is Here With Great Bundle Pricing

steam summer picnic sale
Even though I might not be a major gamer I am a major geek when it comes to getting hot deals. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm always excited when Steam's annual sales come around, and this year is no different!

As one of Valve's major events held each year, the 2016 Summer Picnic Sale features tons of discounts on a vast variety of games featured in the Steam store. This time around, Steam is doing things a little different, and doing away with some of the daily deals and other features we saw in previous sales. This means unlike their other major sales events you won't have to constantly check in to the Steam site to see what discounts are being featured on Steam's front page.

Previous Steam sales typically assigned games one of two prices at any given point: a normal discounted price and an even-more-discounted price that only took effect when Valve was featuring the discount on its front page. If you truly wanted to save, you had to be glued to Steam's site. Now, any discounts Valve features on its main Steam page are just that—highlighted deals, but deals that will remain the same whether they're currently being featured on the page or not. Of course this takes a little of the fun and adventure out of it but it definitely makes it a bit more helpful and ensures everyone has access to the same deals at any time.

As a special offer in the Summer Picnic Sale, select games are available in themed complete-the-set bundles! This is by far going to be one of the best deals you can get during the sale since it will allow you to buy the entire set of games for additional savings. Don't worry if you already own one of the games, Steam has said they will automatically be removed from the price!

The different bundles include a variety of great games like Slime Rancher, The Witness, Scrap Mechanic, DuckGame, Gremlins Inc, and more!
For those looking for an even better deal you can score additional savings at Best Buy this week. They are offering  20 percent off a second card when you buy any gaming currency card. So should you buy two cards of the same amount, that works out to a total discount of 10 percent. That's not a huge amount--$10 if you were to buy two $50 cards--but it's still essentially free money. The Steam ale and all these offers will be available now through July 4th at 10am Pacific.

Have you found any hot deals or great game discounts woth mentioning? Feel free to share what you find below so we can consider purchasing them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

E-Book Buyers Check Your Accounts For Your Credits Today

Good news e-book buyers, if you purchased e-books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 you may be entitled to a free credit on your account thanks to the long awaited payments of a price-fixing settlement that has been years in the making!

At the heart of this issue is an antitrust lawsuit that was filed against Apple and several book publishers dating back several years. In the lawsuit and subsequent settlement  Apple and publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster agreed to refund customers over $400 million dollars for their role in an alleged e-book price-fixing scheme.

Beginning Tuesday the credits were being deposited directly into the e-book buyer’s accounts or mailed as checks. Readers who qualified will get a $6.93 credit for every e-book they bought that was a New York Times bestseller, and a $1.57 credit for other e-books, according to Hagens Berman, the law firm that brought the original suit.

For Amazon customers that believe they have purchased a qualifying e-book, you will be automatically receiving credits in your account. All you need to do is sign in to your Amazon.com account and click on this link to see how much you got.

“Eligible customers do not need to do anything to receive these credits. If you are eligible, we have already calculated your credit for you and added it to your Amazon account,” according to Amazon’s webpage explaining the settlement.

For more details on the lawsuit the attorneys have set up a web site answering questions for e-book buyers about whether they are eligible for any of the settlement money.Just a note, you should act quickly to check on and use your credits as the settlement credits will only be valid through June 24, 2017. After that date, they will expire by order of the court overseeing the settlements.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New FAA Drone Rules May Ground Commercial Delivery Plans

Several companies like Amazon have been keeping a close watch on the FAA and hopes were high that they would easy some of their restrictions that would allow for new services like Amazon Prime Air delivery to take effect. Unfortunately the FAA decided to keep in place many of their temporary restrictions that will severely hinder, if not totally ground, any company's plans to create a viable drone air delivery program.

With the newly released rules, scheduled to take effect in late August, the FAA outlined the official restrictions that will apply to thousands of companies that wish to use drones as a part of their commercial ventures. While the new rules did relax a few licensing requirements and allowed for a few new changes such as twilight hours of flight. They kept in place the line of sight requirement which will have a major impact on how companies utilize drones. This rules requires that operators or observers maintain sight of the drone at all times. Something that will likely make it prohibitive for large scale delivery services to take off.

The FAA's 624-page rulebook allows commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours and lower than 400 feet in the air, or higher if within 400 feet of a taller building or tower. The aircraft must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator. The operators must be at least 16 years old and pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate and a background check by the Transportation Security Administration.

The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The FAA will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.

“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

More details on Part 107 and the announcement can be found on the FAA's website.

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Microsoft Tool 'Refresh Windows' May Be The End All to Bloatware

One of the biggest complaints we've ever had with purchasing OEM or pre-manufactured PC's is the sure volume of pre-installed software that you are forced to endure when getting your new machine. This 'bloatware' that computer makers pack on new machines often slows down that fancy new PC you just bought and in some really bad cases could leave your machine open to security issues.

Now we may have a new tool to eradicate bloatware, and from a very unexpected source! Microsoft has released a free tool for Windows 10 users that will scrub your PC clean of all that unwanted pre-installed software, leaving you with a fresh clean install of your OS. According to the Microsoft Answers article which outlines the details -- the new tool dubbed Refresh Windows downloads and installs a recent, pristine build of Windows 10 on the PC, overwriting the pre-installed version.

Most Windows 10 users probably know that there is a Reset This PC tool in Settings that lets you reset your PC back to its original, factory condition. But since PC makers can modify the system image used by Reset This PC, the resulting clean install is anything but clean, and will include whatever crapware the PC maker decides to include. Refresh Windows will take a few steps beyond that and give users a truly clean image of Windows 10, similar to installing a retail version of the software!

Just keep in mind this is going to be a barebones install, which most of us geeks like anyways, and that all non-Microsoft applications that were bundled or already installed on Windows 10 -- the exception include the Mail email client and the Edge browser -- are eliminated during the refresh. According to the release notes "It will also remove most pre-installed applications such as OEM applications, support applications, and drivers."

So keep in mind this also means you will need to be prepared to download all your drivers if they aren't already covered by those available in Windows 10. So things like your video card, sound card, and many of the peripherals will need to be manually installed.

Refresh Windows hasn’t been officially released yet, but you can download it directly from Microsoft here. However, there is a catch -- the new tool only works on Windows 10 Insider builds, although it will also work on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update when it’s released at the end of July. For more details be sure to read the full Microsoft Answers post.

Quickly Find Android Pay Promotions Available to You

Google has made it easier than ever to find all of the current Android Pay promotions available to you! The search giant has just launched an official Android Pay promotions page for the service, which like many similar pages for their other services features an all-in one style approach for finding apps and deals.


The new page details all the promos you can take advantage of once you sign up for the payment service as well as listing all the current Android Pay-compatible apps. For instance, the page lists Uber's offer, which gives you $10 off for your next ride, and explains that you'll have to type the code ANDROIDPAY in the ride-sharing app's promo section to claim it.

While most of the deals require you to enter codes, some applications will automatically apply discounts if you choose the mobile wallet as your payment option upon checking out. If you regularly use an app that's compatible with the service, you may want to check the portal every once in a while to make sure you're not missing out on a great deal.

If you aren't currently using Android Pay you can download it via the Play Store here. Once you have your credit card setup on the service you can start utilizing the promotions right away, just note that some of the offers are one time use only and may only be available for a limited time.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What is Bluetooth 5 and What Will it Do For You?

 For many users out there Bluetooth is a part of your every day lives. From wireless to keyboards and mice to connecting your phone to devices like your car, hands-free headsets or wireless speakers, or for the newest IoT devices like smart refrigerators. Even though most of us use it every day most don't know that the Bluetooth standard is ever changing and evolving!

Today the Bluetooth Special Interest Group has taken the Bluetooth standard to all new heights when they formally unveiled Bluetooth 5, the newest iteration of this widely used technology.

Bluetooth 5, projected for release in late 2016 to early 2017, will quadruple range and double speed of low energy connections while increasing the capacity of connectionless data broadcasts by 800 percent. It achieves all this alongside its industry-leading power performance. With the major boost in broadcast messaging capacity, the data being transferred will be richer, more intelligent. This will redefine the way Bluetooth devices transmit information, moving away from the app-paired-to-device model to a connectionless IoT where there is less need to download an app or connect the app to a device.

“Bluetooth 5 will transform the way people experience the IoT by making it something that happens simply and seamlessly around them,” said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “Increasing operation range will enable connections to IoT devices that extend far beyond the walls of a typical home, while increasing speed supports faster data transfers and software updates for devices. And now with the ability to broadcast a much richer set of information, Bluetooth 5 will make beacons, location awareness, and other connectionless services an even more relevant part of an effortless and seamless IoT experience”

What the new Bluetooth standard will me for you!

While the major benefits of Bluetooth 5.0 seem pretty obvious it may be a few of the lesser obvious features and benefits that will mean the most to you. First though let's get the obvious out of the way!

Faster more efficient data connections and greater range means your devices will be able to transfer more information back and forth quicker and easier all while being able to maintain more connections and at greater distances. So for instance you can have your phone connected to a Bluetooth speaker, walk throughout the house while sending data to your smartwatch or other devices and neither should slow down, stutter or drop their connection.

The current range of low power Bluetooth 4 devices is limited to about 30ft while high power devices tops out about 300ft, with Bluetooth 5 we could theoretically see that boosted to about 120ft for low power and 1000ft for high power devices.

The lesser obvious benefit will be one that will help almost all current Bluetooth users that have ever had issues pairing their devices (and haven't we all had that issue!). Bluetooth 5.0 will offer connectionless data transfers. Instead of automatically requesting to pair with a device, Bluetooth 5.0 will be smart enough to analyze the type of connection required to transmit the information.

This adds a second benefit as it is expected that Bluetooth 5 will further propel the adoption and deployment of beacons and location-based services in the home automation, enterprise, and industrial markets. These ‘beacons’ will be physically placed Bluetooth hubs that will give smart devices a better understanding of their surroundings. Bluetooth 5 connected devices will send custom information people actually find useful in that moment without connection and application barriers.

As mentioned Bluetooth 5 won’t actually hit the market until late 2016 or early 2017, and while the new hardware will be backwards compatible with your older devices you'll likely need all new hardware to take full advantage of all the benefits. Either way it looks like we’ve still got a little bit of waiting to do before we actually get our hands on this tech and get to see what cool things companies dream up to do with it!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Facebook Begins Forcing Messenger App On Mobile Users


If you are an active Facebook user and one of the many long time hold-outs from updating or migrating to the stand-alone Messenger App you may soon be left little choice! Facebook has decided they are nailing shut one of the few remaining options mobile users had for accessing chat via their phones and has, quite forcefully, begun pushing downloads of their Messenger App.

For several months now Facebook has been doing its best to gradually push users towards their messenger platform. A move that started when the company decided to build the service outward as a stand alone from the main mobile application. However, until now users could easily access their messages and chat with friends using their browser and the mobile site. Unfortunately that wasn't good enough for Facebook, as they seemingly want to drive as many users as they can to installing the app.

Beginning this past weekend the company began working to remove the Messenger function on the mobile version of its website, pushing users instead to a landing page and redirect instructing you to install the separate Facebook Messenger app. According to Engadget, Facebook’s push toward Messenger for mobile website users appears to affect only Android users for now, but it’s probably only a matter of time before iOS users get forced to Messenger as well. 

Facebook insists that this move comes because it wants users on Messenger so they can have the “best experience” while chatting with their friends. Of course, we highly doubt that, especially with Facebook pushing more adds and service through the messenger platform. I suspect this is more about the all mighty dollar than anything else!

Those of us that still want or need to use Facebook and want to use the messenger service, but not be bothered with the privacy concerns or other issues we've discussed that plague the Messenger app still have one last glimmer of hope. We can jump through a few minor hoops and access our messages though the main site. One simply needs to avoid the mobile site, instead using "Desktop View" on our mobile phones. 

T-Mobile's Rewards Program Puts AT&T's to Shame


T-Mobile CEO John Legere really knows how to shake things up in the mobile world! So it comes as no surprise to us that he did just that at the company's Uncarrier 11 event.

Legere used the event to announce the launch of a new customer loyalty program that is unlike almost anything you've ever seen before. One that honestly puts the rewards program AT&T offered last week to utter shame!
“Get ready for a gratitude adjustment, America! This Un-carrier move is all about giving you a good thanking! No strings. No gotchas. Just ‘thank you for being a customer!’” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “At T-Mobile, we already wake up every day working for our customers—so I’ve decided to make it official and turn T-Mobile customers into T-Mobile owners by offering them stock. And we’re thanking customers every week with cool stuff from brands people love. For free. Every Tuesday!”
As part of the newly announced Uncarrier 11 initiative, T-Mobile launched StockUp, a new rewards program that grants one share of company stock to every T-Mobile primary account holder. Those folks can bank up to 100 shares a year by referring their friends -- not too shabby, considering shares are currently valued at $43.62 and T-Mobile's strong financial growth could nudge that number even higher

Existing customers can claim their T-Mobile stock starting tomorrow, June 7, through June 21 in the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, and customers can learn more about growing their ownership when they recommend T-Mobile at www.t-mobile.com/StockUp.

In addition to offering every customer the change to become an owner of T-Mobile shares, Legere announced T-Mobile Tuesdays, a new app that thanks T-Mobile customers with free stuff and epic prizes, every single Tuesday. For starters you'll get free dinner and a movie every week. T-Mobile customers can carry out a free medium two-topping Domino’s pizza, free small Wendy’s Frosty and free movie rental from VUDU, Walmart’s video on-demand service.

If that isn't enough of a reward T-Mobile is offering even more! As a part of the program each customer will get an additional freebie of some kind that could be tickets, a gift card, free subscriptions, or free ride-sharing. This week, it’s tickets to go see Warcraft in theaters. To top it all off they are going one step further and offering everyone a chance at winning a majorly "EPIC" prize. One lucky T-Mobile user will be randomly selected for an “epic” prize. This week’s epic prize is a trip on a party bus for someone and 40 of their closest friends to a private showing of Warcraft with all-you-can-eat candy, popcorn, and soft drinks. Other epic prizes in the lineup include:
  • a trip for two to Vegas to stay at Mandalay Bay with tickets to see UB40 at the Mandalay Bay Beach and roll VIP style at Luxor’s LAX Nightclub. Plus $100 in Lyft credits to get around town.
  • a trip to MLB All-Star week in San Diego for you and a lucky guest, including exclusive access to the Home Run Derby press conference and batting practice to see the top players up close and personal.
  • a once-in-a-lifetime expedition for you and your hiking buddy up the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, complete with accommodations, meals, and tours from The Clymb.
  • a trip to New York City to refresh your wardrobe with a $10,000 shopping spree with the help of an in-house stylist in the private Gilt showroom.

T-Mobile has partnered with a slew of businesses including American Giant, Buffalo Wild Wings, Condé Nast, Fanatics, Fandango, Gilt, HotelTonight, JackThreads, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures, Lyft, Major League Baseball, MGM Resorts International, Samsung Electronics America, Inc., Shell, StubHub, The Clymb, The Grommet and Warner Brothers to make these prizes possible.

For more information on Un-carrier 11, check out www.t-mobile.com/GetThanked and the Un-carrier 11 media kit at newsroom.t-mobile.com/news-and-blogs/un-carrier-11.htm.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Facebook Teams With Game Developer Blizzard For Live Game Streaming

For those gamers out there that are obsessed with live streaming their own games, or watching other gamers in action, a new deal between game giant Blizzard and social media giant Facebook will offer you a new way to get your fix!

Blizzard has unveiled a new partnership with Facebook that will let you stream several of Blizzard's most popular games directly to your Facebook fans and followers through Facebook Live. More over the deal will also create a cross platform partnership that will allow you to use your current Facebook login and information rather than a new Battle.Net to play Blizzard's games.

The collaboration will begin later this month with the integration of games such as World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III, StarCraft II, and Blizzard's most recent blockbuster release, Overwatch.

"Blizzard games are best when played with friends, so it's important to us to provide our players with features and services that make it easy and fun to share their experiences with each other," said Gio Hunt, executive vice president of corporate operations at Blizzard Entertainment. "We're working closely with Facebook on this integration for Overwatch, as well as our other games, and we look forward to sharing further details on our plans as development progresses."

As part of the collaboration between the two companies, Blizzard recently hosted multiple livestreams via Facebook. The first series of streams centered on Heroes of the Dorm, Blizzard's collegiate tournament featuring its popular team-brawler Heroes of the Storm. Last week, Blizzard hosted a livestreamed launch event for Overwatch on Facebook.

"Blizzard has a passionate community of players, and an incredible track record for launching innovative and high-quality gaming experiences," said Leo Olebe, global games partnerships director at Facebook. "Our collaboration on Overwatch demonstrates Facebook's commitment to partnering with AAA game companies, while further empowering Blizzard gamers to connect and share the content they're most passionate about with the friends they play with around the world."