Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Amazon Prime Adds Prime Wardrobe With Free "Try Before You Buy” Option

Amazon is expanding their Prime offerings yet again. This time with a new option dubbed Prime Wardrobe a service that will allow you to checkout fashion choices from Amazon fashion. The finest point, and likely the best selling, is that the service will come with a “try before you buy” option allowing you have items shipped to you to try on before you are billed!

Amazon says the service will offer plenty of choices with over 1 million items on Amazon Fashion including popular brands like Levi’s, Adidas, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. With“try before you buy” the company ships your selected items for you to try on, and then you send whatever you don’t want right back to Amazon, for free. You only pay for the items you keep, and Amazon will sweeten the deal by offering discounts based on the number of pieces you choose to hang on to, with up to 20% off.

Prime Wardrobe is still in a testing phase, so isn't yet available to the public. Customers can get more information on the service and ask to receive an email when it launches here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Apple's WWDC Scheduled for June 5, 2017

Apple has officially announced that its WWDC 2017 will take place between June 5th and 9th at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The 2017 Keynote will be taking place on June 5th at 10:00 am Pacific Time with expected announcements related to the new iOS 11 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and macOS 11 for the Mac. Rumors also suggest we may hear about new hardware ranging from the new iPhone 8 to iPad Pros and maybe even a Siri home device.

Don't hold your breathe on getting tickets however, because as usual they are already gone!  Tickets, which were priced at $1,599, were distributed by random selection at the end of March, and free tickets provided to scholarship winners were handed out in April. 

The official WWDC invite to developers said "Technology alone is not enough. Technology must intersect with the liberal arts and the humanities, to create new ideas and experiences that push society forward. This summer we bring together thousands of brilliant minds representing many diverse perspectives, passions, and talents to help us change the world."

Apple typically uses their invites to tease some of the undertones of the event. In this case we could be seeing a major push towards a more interactive technology with more VR or augmented reality. Or we could see something completely out of the norm. It really is hard to say!

Apple expects to host about 5,000 developers, with hundreds of Apple engineers available to answer questions and host app development sessions. Developers who cannot attend will be able to watch the sessions through the WWDC 2017 website, and the WWDC app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. 

Amazon Free Shipping Threshold Lowered Back to $25

If like me, you hate to pay for shipping on anything you buy, then Amazon has just made your day. The company has, very quietly, dropped their threshold for "Free Super Saver Shipping" back to the original $25 it was back in the good old days. Prime One-Day Delivery will still be eligible on orders over $35.

Even though Amazon has reached record profits over the years, competition for your buying dollar has reached new heights. Numerous other online retailers offering $35 free shipping thresholds, including Target, Jet.com and Walmart, which recently introduced free two-day shipping on orders over $35.

The new minimum shows Amazon competing for shoppers who don’t pay $99-a-year for Amazon Prime, which includes free two-day shipping on millions of items as well as access to music and video. These customers are the Seattle-based company’s most loyal shoppers. Amazon will make non-Prime shoppers wait 5 to 8 business days for free shipping on more than 50 million items.

All this geek can say is kudos to those companies out there that keep the competition going! Lower prices are almost always a plus for us consumers.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Comcast Launches Xfinity Mobile Wireless With $65 Unlimited Plans (Sorta)

"America's Most Hated Company" may have just given customers another reason to hate it by launching of Xfinity Mobile, the company's first attempt at breaking in to the wireless market. With the new service Comcast will offer its customers TV, home internet, home phone and wireless service under one umbrella. Yes that means you will likely get more calls and marketing pushing an upgrade to the bundled. the service.

The service will be back-boned by a combination of Comcast Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots and Verizon's existing  network.Giving customers cellular coverage through Verizon at times when they can not connect to one of Comcast’s millions of Wi-Fi hotspots. The phones will automatically connect to those locations, similar to how Google’s Project Fi works.

Comcast is promising no line access fees, with unlimited talk and text on up to five lines. All you will pay for is data usage. Combined with its internet service, it will have "unlimited" mobile data access available for $65 per month, per line, while its "best" bundle package brings the price for unlimited access down to $45 per month. As with most of these "unlimited" plans, unlimited truly doesn't mean unlimited. Customers using more than 20GB a month will end up being throttled, severely in this case based on what Ars Technica is reporting.

If you'd prefer to pay only for the data you use,  Xfinity Mobile will offer a $12 per GB plan, which customers can switch to and away from within the app, even in the middle of a month. Families can mix-and-match on an account so that each person can choose the way to pay for data that makes sense for them.  This means that at any time users find that they’ve used more data on a “By the
Gig” option one month, they can switch to “Unlimited” for that month, then switch back the next month with no penalties. Additionally with Xfinity Mobile, Comcast is offering 24/7 customer support via text message and a dedicated Xfinity Mobile call center support team. Hope it is better than their existing service!

As far as devices are concerned the company has already confirmed Xfinity Mobile will sell the the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for the service. They aren't being as transparent about what Android-based products will be offered, but it confirmed that it will “feature the best devices from Samsung and LG”. Hopefully, that means customers can get the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus and the LG G6 via Xfinity Mobile.

For more details on the new service checkout the full Comcast announcement and Xfinity Mobile fact sheet or the Xfinity Mobile corporate websitee where you can also pre-register for more information.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: GateKeeper Wireless USB Smart Key and Intelligent Computer Lock

When it comes to security one of the most overlooked areas I typically see is one of the most basic fundamentals, utilizing your built in lock-screen to keep prying eyes out of your device. This seems to be true whether we are talking smartphones, tablets or PCs. For most of us I think it is a matter of inconvenience, or for me the forgetfulness of simply not remembering to lock my screen (my timeout time is a bit long as well).

Luckily for me the folks over at GateKeeper have come up with a new option that I've been fortunate enough to test out for you guys! GateKeeper has developed a wireless intelligent key that automatically logs you in and out based on your proximity to your computer or workstation. No longer do you have worry about timeouts or remembering to lock your computer. You simply carry your wireless Keyfob around (on your badge, in your pocket whatever) and walk away. Once you are no longer within your pre-defined range GateKeeper will automatically lock your PC for you.

The GateKeeper Key and USB Lock communicate using Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology to authenticate you when you are in proximity to computer. It has an effective range of 30 feet and can be controlled to limit the range from anywhere between 3 and 30 feet. The GateKeeper key is 50mm x 25mm x 6mm; 10gm or roughly the size of a Tile Bluetooth Tracker (as seen below) while the USB dongle is a standard micro size used by other wireless devices.

GateKeeper next to the Tile, XY3 and TrackR Bravo
Your credentials are encrypted with military-grade AES256 encryption and stored on the computer. No private information is stored on the Keyfob and credentials are never transmitted over the air – so nothing private can be sniffed or obtained from taking a Keyfob. Once the GateKeeper software and USB transmitter are installed the computer will automatically lock if they are removed.Giving you just one more level of security.

Setup within the software is pretty straightforward. You have options for setting up you lock or login to your computer, range of proximity, a signal strength indicator and a few options for notifications. Personally I prefer and recommend using the touch to login option as this allows you to keep your device locked when you are nearby and aren't ready to use it. Otherwise once you are back on range your computer automatically unlocks (as it should).

Aside from the software for your PC is software for your phone that allows you to use your phone as a tracker and locator for your Gk Keyfob. The software (Android) or our phone did not want to pair with our device so we didn't get to fully test it. The app will connect to the GK Keyfob and a meter will indicate how far it is from the smartphone. As you walk around, the app will indicate whether you have moved closer or further away from the GK Keyfob. Using the "LOCATE" feature will also cause the GK Keyfob to buzz making it easier for you to find your lost valuables.

A Geek's Opinion About The GateKeeper

I am notorious for leaving myself logged on while I'm doing other things around the office or while I'm out working in the field. Luckily, the worst thing that I've had done to me was a little Facebook prankery. Having said that, within the first day of using it I learned that this little device is a must have for me, in fact I think they should be must have's for most (out of)office environments! It literally is a set and forget device, and unlike my timeout for my Windows lock screen I don't have to worry about someone jumping on my laptop before the timeout takes affect.

A second major plus is the addition of a remote lock button that allows me to lock my computer instantly from across the room. This can come in handy if you are browsing some more sensitive material or have something on the screen that might need to be quickly hidden away even though you are in close proximity.

In terms of effective range and connectivity we had no issues at all. We tested it at the shortest (3ft), and furthest (30ft) ranges and never once had false locks or issues with our GateKeeper not locking. Personally I'd set it for somewhere in the mid-range as I did have it lock my screen a few times when I thought I was still in range. As mentioned I also prefer using the touch to login option as there was no option to keep my laptop locked when I was in range and this was the only way to do so.

 I wish I could have tested the phone app out, but that might be an issue with my phone rather than the app for the GK. If I do it to work I'll be sure to post and update.

The complete GateKeeper System starts at $60 on Amazon, or you can get a 2 pack for $90 directly from GK. If you try them out let us know what you think!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

YouTube TV Is The Company's New $35 Per Month Pay-to-View Service

[Update: YouTube TV is Now Live! and is currently available in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia] 

When YouTube reached the major milestone this week of surpassing a billion hours of daily content being watched it did so on the backbone of the company's all to familiar free video service. In order to reach the next major milestone however, the company is taking a totally different approach. One that takes aim at cable companies and other streaming giants alike!

At an event in Los Angeles the company debuted YouTube TV, a streaming service that combines live content from broadcast and cable television networks with content from several of your favorite YouTube creators.

Here’s what YouTube TV offers:
  • Live TV streaming from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. YouTube TV gives you the best of live TV, from must-see broadcast shows like “Empire,” “The Voice,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Scandal,” to the live sports you want. YouTube TV includes major sports networks like ESPN and regional sports networks like Fox Sports Networks and Comcast SportsNet, so you can watch your favorite NBA or MLB teams. We’ve also partnered with local TV stations, so you’ll also get sports and local news based on where you live. And YouTube TV offers dozens of additional cable channels, so you won’t miss out on the latest news from MSNBC or Fox News, popular shows and movies from USA or FX, kids programming from the Disney Channel or Sprout, or reality TV from E! or Bravo. You can also add Showtime, or Fox Soccer Plus to your networks for an additional charge. In total, YouTube TV gives you access to more than 40 networks, listed below.
  • A cloud DVR, with no storage limits. With YouTube TV, you’ll be able to record live TV and never run out of storage. Your cloud DVR can record as many shows as you want, simultaneously, without using precious data or space on your phone and we’ll store each of your recordings for nine months.
  • A service that works great on all your screens. You can watch YouTube TV on any screen—mobile, tablet or computer—and you can easily stream to your TV with a Google Chromecast or Chromecast built-in TV. YouTube TV works on both Android and iOS. And your cloud DVR goes with you, so you can stream your recordings on any device, whenever and wherever you want.
  • YouTube Red Originals. With a YouTube TV membership, you can watch all of our YouTube Red Original series and movies right on the new YouTube TV app.
  • Six accounts, one price. Every YouTube TV membership comes with six accounts, each with its own unique recommendations and personal DVR with no storage limits. You can watch up to three concurrent streams at a time.
  • Half the cost of cable with zero commitments. A YouTube TV membership is only $35 a month and there are no commitments—you can cancel anytime.
YouTube TV will be available soon in the largest U.S. markets and will quickly expand to cover more cities across the country. At launch it will have over 40 networks available for streaming and will allow you to connect up to six separate accounts to share with friends and family. Visit tv.youtube.com and sign up to find out more about the service and when it will launch in your market.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: STM Radial 15" Laptop Messenger Bag

When it comes to laptop accessories nothing is more important than a great laptop bag. Not only does a great laptop bag make it easier to carrier your machine, but it offers better protection and organization. Something that geeks like me, that are accident prone and tend to forget everything, need the most!

When selecting any device, gadget or accessory I tend to go for function over form. I could carry around just about anything, no matter how it looks, as long as it does what I need when I need it. When it comes to laptop bags this means I need good protections for scratches, bumps and the occasional spill. It also means I need tons of space to carry along my add-ons. Things like my charger, mouse, tablet and phone (and chargers) additional battery packs and a few other odds and ends! The STM Radial shines in all these areas!

STM Radial Specifications

  • Main material(s): 300d dobby with water resistant coating, lining: 200d poly
  • Device space: 9.3 x 13.2 x 1.2 in, designed for 15" laptop with extras
  • Capacity: 10L - more than 15 compartments
  • weight: 1.98 lbs / 0.9 kg
  • Cableready organization: proprietary cable routing system utilizes purpose built pockets, ports between sections, and integrated cable management to store, access, and charge your various devices while keeping your bag organized
  • Sling Tech System - a padded sling suspends your devices from the bag's floor, and the bottom corners are wrapped in additional padding for the ultimate in digital gear protection


Keeping Things Organized

The STM Radial laptop bag is designed to comfortably fit up to a 15″ laptop with plenty of space for additional mobile devices. On the outside you'll notice there are good sized zipped pocket on the front, two side pockets (one zipped), and a handy drop in rear pouch for reading material. The main interior compartment is secured with two quick release buckles that can be cinched down to secure the contents inside. Here you'll find an additional assortment of small to medium pockets (I counted 12 in total, with one hidden) and the main laptop compartment that has a soft padded surface on all four sides to aide in protecting your laptop.

This wide array of compartments with several different sizes was one of the biggest benefits for me. I found a place for just about everything I could think of that I need to carry with me on my typical work day. I also managed to add a few none typical extras in there just in case! The easy access to the external pockets was perfect for traveling and travel documents while keeping everything else out of site.

Keeping Your Devices Charged

One of STM's more innovative features is their Cableready design. The side and front pockets of the STM Radial contain cable routing ports. These are designed to pass a USB or Apple lightning cable through into different sections of the bag. The side pocket is large enough to hold a mid-size portable charger or if you have a high capacity power bank, this can be stored in the front section. A third option I used was passing my headphone cables through so that I could listen to podcasts and music on my tablet while leaving it out of sight and out of harms way in my bag.

One thing I would warn you about is heat! If like me you have a couple of those pesky devices that generally run a little on the warm side when charging, you might want to avoid doing so in your bag!

Portability And Protection

The STM Radial messenger bag can be carried in a variety of ways to make your life easier. You can use the top handle to carry it like a normal bag, or more comfortably on the shoulders or across the body. The main strap features a removable shoulder pad with a non-slip inner surface and Quick cam retainers for easy adjustment. There is a good amount of length, unfortunately there is no option to add a long strap if need be. The back of the bag also has a luggage pass-through for securing the bag to the handle of your wheeled luggage, making it easy for travelers to carry-on.

The weather resistant outer material feels extremely durable and did a great job at beading and repelling small spills and rain when I tested it. The inside shell was nice and soft and seemed to offer enough protection from scratches, but I would have liked a little more padding for accidental drops. When jostling things around everything stayed in place quit well with nothing really slipping or falling out of its compartment.

Being a telecommuting geek that does a lot of work on the go I know first hand the importance of keeping things safe, secure and organized. For me the STM Radial Messenger Bag does just about everything you can ask from it and then some! It really gave me an all-in-one solution for storing everything I need for my day to day and travel needs. The price might be a bit on the higher end for some, but in my opinion is would be well worth it. I'm going to give the folks at STM two thumbs up on this one!

The STM Radial sales from $79.95-99.95 at several of your favorite retailers (including Amazon) and comes in three colors: Black, Steel and Moroccan Blue. If you want more details or more info on STM products check them out at https://www.stmgoods.com/ and on Twitter @STMGoods.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cybersecurity and Antivirus Software Vendor Kaspersky Launches An OS, Because Why Not

When it comes to operating systems most people will only be able to give you a couple names. Typically those would be would Microsoft, Apple/macOS/iOS, Android and Linux (semantics aside here). Most people would likely be surprised that there are several well know players out there that are actively looking at ways to break into the operating system market. Some in fact have, and failed miserably.

That however isn't stopping one of the better known security and antivirus vendors out there from throwing their hat into the ring. Widely know cybersecurity and antivirus vendor Kaspersky has announced  this week the availability of KasperskyOS. What the company is calling a new "secure operating system" aimed at network devices, industrial control systems and the Internet of Things.

In a post on his official blog, Eugene Kaspersky (chief executive of the company) announced the new product and offered a quick overview of what how the operating system hopes to keep system more secure and what their end game is. For you geeks they have been kind enough to cut out the sales and marketing approach and give some hard details. For the rest I'll summarize what Kaspersky has to say about their new OS below!

First off KasperskyOS is meant to be highly flexible. Their goal is to have an open project that is specialized specifically for niche projects and products. So don't expect to see it on any of your machines anytime soon. They are shooting more for enterprise applications that anything else. However, according to the KasperskyOS whitepaper, supported architectures include: x86/x64 CPU's: Pentium II or higher, ARM CPU,: ARMv7 or higher, and Ethernet: Realtek RTL8139, Intel i82580.

Security is built from the ground up with a secure Default Deny system at the process level and is wrapped into a microkernel. In simple words, it’s a system that does what it’s instructed to and is unable to do anything else. Unlike most operating systems, where as user interaction can bypass security controls, KasperskyOS is extremely locked down. It divides objects into isolated entities which only allows for very limited interaction between packages creating a wall between the OS, applications and security levels.

To create a package that could be applied in several different areas of granular customization, Kaspersky has developed three basic products into one:
  • An Operating System (KasperskyOS)
  • A standalone secure hypervisor (KSH) for running virtual machines
  • A system for secure interaction between OS components (KSS)
All three components work in tandem to try to build upon each other to create the secure environment. The systems are being called a "project offering" and not "a boxed solution with a cure-all for everyone." The company says their intent is to working closely and collaborate with vendors and developers to configure these systems based on their requirements to meet their individual security needs.