Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Samsung Pay May Be Coming to Your Older Samsung Phone In 2016

This week saw some great news for Samsung phone owners that have been dying to try out the company's mobile payment service. Global co-general manager of Samsung Pay Thomas Ko told Reuters that the Samsung Pay service will be expanding beyond the company's flagship devices to likely include cheaper none flagship devices, which in turn means we will hopefully see it rolled out to older devices as well!

Lower-priced Samsung phones will likely start offering the mobile wallet "within the next year," Thomas Ko, global co-general manager of Samsung Pay, said in an interview. He went on to say it is a goal for Samsung to see wider adoption of the service and that "handset availability of Samsung Pay as well as online payment support is coming soon."

Samsung also plans to expand the service beyond just a mobile wallet and into the online payments arena. Ko says that the mobile wallet is accepted at far more locations than its rivals, due to its ability to work with older payment terminals and not just new NFC-equipped models. Online payments, meanwhile, will transform the service into a PayPal rival.

Samsung Pay is already the most widely accepted mobile wallet in the United States because it is compatible with new and older credit card terminals and does not require any special arrangements with retailers, Ko said. For instance, shoppers at Wal-Mart can pay by just waving their smartphones with the app. without the requirement of addition of the store's own third party app like their newly launched Walmart Pay.

Unlike the limitation of Android Pay and Apple Pay which both require NFC, or near-field communications, chips and terminals, Samsung Pay uses technology that Samsung acquired through their acquisition of payment service LoopPay.

LoopPay utilizes MST technology to generate changing magnetic fields over a very short period of time. This is accomplished by putting alternating current through an inductive loop, which can then be received by the magnetic read head of the credit card reader. The signal received from the device emulates the same magnetic field change as a mag stripe card when swiped across the same read head. LoopPay works within a 3-inch distance from the read head. The field dissipates rapidly beyond that point, and only exists during a transmission initiated by the user.

Utilizing this technology Samsung Pay wirelessly sends credit or debit card information magnetically as if a customer's card was swiped at a payment terminal. That means merchants aren't required to install additional or specialized hardware to accept payments from a phone. Samsung Pay also works with NFC terminals but currently only on Samsung's four flagship devices such as the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. Expanding the technologies to lower priced phones will bring mobile payments to a larger swath of the population.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Got a New Drone or Hoverboard For Christmas? You Better Read This!

For new drone and hoverboard owners there are several key laws that you need to be aware of in order to keep yourselves and your children safe and out of trouble!

They are two of this year’s must-have holiday item, coveted by children and adults alike. Retailers are promoting them heavily online and on catalog covers, and they are an increasingly common sight. But before you take that shiny new drone out for your first flight or take that hoverboard for a spin around the block you had better know the laws related to usage or you may face heavy fines!

Register Your Drone And Know Your Responsibilities

We've covered a lot about the new drone registration laws and while many of us may not totally agree with it, it is a law that you should be aware of especially since it cares some major fines and penalties! The online process should only take about five minutes, and the $5 cost covers any number of drones you own for three years. Once registered, write or affix your registration number to your drone, and carry a physical or digital version of your registration card when you fly.

Just remember that anyone over the age of 13 must register their drone regardless of size. The actual min weight is only 1/2 a pound or so and a maximum of 55lbs. You are also limited to a flight ceiling of 400ft, and must maintain visual contact with your drone at all times.

For more regulations be sure to checkout some of the FAQ's so you are fully aware of what you can and can't do with your drone. If you still have questions the FAA is partnering with several industry associations to promote safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft. You can read more about the Know Before You Fly educational campaign.

Hoverboards: You Better Know Your Local Laws!

Many new hoverboard owners may be shocked to find out that there are in fact several law regarding usage and in many places — from New York State to individual schools, malls and stores — they are actually illegal to ride!

Anytime a new and popular mode of transportation hits the mainstream we see a great deal of confusion when it comes to laws and legality of use on the roadways. The public often isn't aware that there are laws that actually regulate when, where and by whom a new device can be operated. In the cases of device like hoverboards the powers that be struggle to keep up with a sudden rise in popularity and existing laws may not clearly point to the device in question.

This is certainly true as it pertains things like motorized scooters and now hoverboards. Existing laws may not have mentioned them directly, therefore many new owners might not know that they are in fact covered by those laws.

In the case of the New York owners in areas like the Upper East Side and other parts of New York City, the state classifies them as motorized vehicles that cannot be registered, so riding them in public can incur a steep fine.

Such is also the case in California! Recently we saw a surge of people taking to Facebook to voice protest over what they think is 'a new way for the state to make money' when in fact the new law actually overturns old laws that had previously banned the usage of motorized skateboards.

The new law, which will take effect on January 1, 2016, was signed into legislation back in October. Filed as AB 604, the law defines “electrically motorized boards” as a new legal category (characterized by moving no faster than 20mph, carrying only one person, and being no bigger than 60 by 18 inches), and specifies that an operator must be at least 16 years of age to operate their hoverboard on any public street, highway, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trail.

The bill would also require electrically motorized boards to be equipped with safety equipment, as specified, and restrict the operation speed of electrically motorized boards. Any violation of the new law carries a penalty of $275 and possible confiscation of the device.

As you can see from these two examples the laws vary widely. Regulations will also vary widely as local governments and both public and private entities implement their own restrictions. So you certainly want to check with your local government as well as private entities like your property management or HOA's, retailers and any entertainment venues you might want to take your drone or hoverboard to.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Last Minute Geeky Gift Ideas!!

While there may only be a few short days left in the holiday season there is still plenty of time to get your favorite geeks an affordable gift they won't want to return! Geeks can be a particularly difficult bunch to shop for, ok not really we just like techie gifts, but that doesn't mean you can't find something that every geek on your holiday shopping list will need. Below we've added a few great ideas that any geek can use, even if they already have one!

Power for your power hungry devices!
One thing that almost every tech device has in common is a major huger for more power! For geeks keeping our smartphones, tablets or other devices powered is a major area of concern, after all how are we going to stream videos or game without battery life?

Monster Mobile Powercard - This supper thin portable battery pack makes it easy to recharge your phone in an emergency. At just a quarter of an inch thick, and weighing less than 1.6 ounces, Monster Monster Mobile Powercards fit easily into a wallet, purse or backpack and pack a powerful punch for quick charge on the go.

PNY T6600 PowerPack - Featuring a slightly larger profile the PNY T6600 packs more power for your punch! The T6600 provides dual Universal USB ports with 1 amp & 2.4 amp outputs offering the ability to charge 2 devices simultaneously and packs enough power give you up to 4 charges for most of your mobile device when you need it most!

High Capacity Solar Panel Charger - Something every outdoors enthusiast and sports geek should own is a good high quality solar charger.Most these days come with prechargeable high capacity battery packs to replenish the charge on your devices even at night, but the key here is the solar charging. You never want to get caught in the back-county without one!

Portable durable sound on the go!
You just can't be a true geek if you can't rock out to your jams while you are on the go, and nothing ruins your day like a wimpy speaker that can't handle the rugged lifestyle, or a weak set of headphones.

Monster SuperStar Wireless Bluetooth Speaker - The BackFloat rugged Bluetooth speaker packs plenty of bang for the buck with great sound quality from an extremely portable device. It features 7hrs of playback, a speakerphone and did we mention this thing even floats. It has been tested to withstand both heat and cold so it will work not only in the pool or at the lake but in a Jacuzzi or bathtub and is rugged enough to withstand the snow, beach or night around the campfire!

Outdoor Technology Big Turtle Shell - Often given some of the best reviews as this biggest loudest portable speaker system out there the Big Turtle Shell is a must have for the geeky audiophile on your shopping list. They will love the high quality sound, that provides excellent 'boom' for that outdoor gaming party or large campground shindig. The speaker lasts for 16 hours of playing time and it can recharge your iPhone or Android four times over.

Monster Clarity HD Headphones - A good set of headphones is a must for any geek and these things are simply amazing. Check with your geeks and see if they prefer earbuds or over the ear style headphones, but either way you go they all make great stocking stuffers!

Store all those files, photos and holiday memories!
Almost every geek gadget these takes needs more storage space and you can never go wring with giving the gift of micro sd cards, portable hard drives or flash drives!

Samsung EVO+ microSDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Card - I use Samsung memory exclusively in all of my devices and highly recommend them to everyone and just about every geek on your list has at least one device out there that can use more memory! The Samsung Samsung EVO+ line-up is some of the best dollar for dollar memory I think you can get right now and since it has been on-sale it can be had at a great price. The cards feature read & write speeds of up to 80MB/s & 20MB/sfor faster loading times and transfer speeds.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive - This cool portable drive tucks away nicely in a stocking and can be carried by just about any geek on your list. The portable drive allows you to save videos, photos or music from up to five smartphones and tablets without the hassle of wires, cables, or internet availability. You can even use the media card slot to share files from your media card directly to each device. It makes sharing photos during the holidays a breeze!

LaCie Rugged Portable Hard Drive - A must have for any outdoors enthusiast on your holiday shopping list. Built to withstand some of the most rugged conditions LaCie Rugged Drives make great gifts for avid sportsmen, a college student that is always on the go, or that average user that might be prone to dropping other portable drives.

These are just a few ideas that some might consider out of the box. Geeks really do love just about any tech gadgets, movies, games or music you can throw at them, we just want you to think more broadly about some of the options available. Things like power packs, memory and headphones are pretty universal to everyone out there and even if they don't need them right away having back-ups is always a positive! Be creative this holiday season, buy something bold!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: TrackR Bravo When Excitement Turned To Remorse

We have been looking for the best options for keeping track of our numerous gadgets around the office and personal devices for some time now. We've had our eye on a few different options, but until now we have had a very limited opportunity to actually get hands on any of the more popular devices like the Linquet, TrackR and others. So when the opportunity arose to purchase a new TrackR Bravo at a discounted price we jumped for joy (yes sadly we didn't get a free tester unit).

TrackR is one of just a few crowdfunded project we've actively been tracking (no pun intended) for some time now. The overall design of the device as well as promised capabilities always sparked our interest . Having recently lost a few sets of keys, among the many thing we occasionally lose, we decide to take advantage of a promotional offer of $10 off to buy a TrackR Bravo for the office which also netted us a TrackR Sticker for our home use (thanks to their referral program).

Our TrackR Sticker arrived fairly quickly as it seems they had plenty on hand. Unfortunately the TrackR Bravo took about 6 weeks to be delivered (something they didn't tell us), which may have been due to our order of custom engraving.We'll get into that a bit later as well!

The TrackR Sticker and TrackR Bravo both offer the same fundamental features. They connect via Bluetooth to your compatible device to allow for two way tracking and separation alerts. They also use Bluetooth to utilize the device's GPS system for TrackR's crowd based location tracking. The only major difference between the two devices comes down to deign, as the Bravo is thinner and lighter and the materials used. The Sticker is made of plastic while the Bravo features a much more stylish design with a very thin anodized aluminum shell.

Pairing and using your device is pretty straightforward. Turn on BT, open the app and select add a new device, then press the small blue led button to enable BT on the TrackR and it should pair right up. The TrackR App itself is pretty basic with a few features you can setup. You have things like device separation, so the TrackR will beep when the phone is out of range, or vice versa and the phone will alarm when the TrackR is gone. You also have your crowd based GPS map that shows you a last known location.

As mentioned with our TrackR Bravo we were also able to order custom engraving which offers the very useful option of adding a phone number or other details so you can be contacted if your device (and hopefully keys, wallet or whatever you are tracking) are found. We chose to add our phone number to one of ours, unfortunately the size of the engraving is very small and very easily overlooked! So we aren't sure how helpful that really will be.

Our Disappointment Begins!!

We started running into problems right away and from the app reviews on Google Play it sounds like everyone else had pretty much the same issues! First we started our testing by trying out the device separation alerts. We figured this might be something we'd use more often than not to locate our keys around the office or in the house or just to make sure we don't walk off without something.

Unfortunately as you can see from many of the complaints the audible alarm on the TrackR devices, yes we had issues with both, is not loud enough to be heard further than a few feet away in even a quiet location. The sound is also very high pitched so some people will automatically have issues right there. TackR told many reviewers that they had fixed this issue and had louder devices, but this doesn't seem to be the case since we just ordered ours and they have the same flaw. Unfortunately not being able to hear your device when it is in the same room means you are going to have issues pin-pointing it.

Our second issue was with range. TrackR claims an impressive Bluetooth range of 100 ft., however we were never able to get more than a few feet from our device without it setting off the phone alarm. On the occasions we did, range was limited to a line of sight of approx. 10-15ft at best. We also had several issues with the connection dropping and the alarm going off while the two devices were in close proximity. This got annoying and resulted in the need to shut down the feature all together.

Both of these issues are major disappointments! If you can't hear your device or rely on the alerts then it almost makes them worthless! You may ask if the app has any sort of reliable tracking that helps to pin-point location. Unfortunately no it doesn't. It does give you a very poor - close or far - indicator, but there is nothing that aids you in actual direction of the device or even how close or far it might be.

It Wasn't All Bad And We Did See An Upside!

The one and only upside that we can say we had was using TrackR's Crowd GPS system. It wasn't without flaws, but we were able to see the devices connected and located in a few locations while we were out on the move. This gives us hope that had we actually lost or misplaced one of our devices at one of the locations we were at that we might be able to find them. It would likely have to rely upon a stranger actually turning them in, but at least it would give us some sort of hope for a return.

In short while we started off pretty excited to test out our TrackR's and hopefully have something that would help us keep track of our devices at the end of the day we just ended up with a great deal of disappointment. Some people might be able to use them under totally ideal conditions and in completely ideal situations. However, that really isn't realistic and certainly not good enough to warrant us recommending buying them. Maybe down the road TrackR will be able to fix the sound issues and fine tune the tracking, until then I'll be looking for another option.

Monday, December 14, 2015

FAA Drone Registration Is Here, $5 Fee Waived For Early Registration

With the newly announced drone registration regulations now in full effect the FAA will officially start accepting applications from drone users wanting to be in compliance with the law. The registration website has been launched and includes frequently asked questions about the process. Actual online registrations won't begin until next Monday, December 21.

Registration will be legally required by February 19, 2016 for anyone age 13 and older who owns or operates a small UAS (drone)  weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 lbs.) and less than 55 lbs. The rule applies retroactively, so even someone who operated an unmanned aircraft prior to December 21 must register by the deadline. Anyone purchasing a drone after December 21 must register before the first outdoor flight.

You'll need to provide your name, home address, and email address. After you complete the registration, you'll get a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique ID number, which you must affix to your drone or drones.

Registration will be free for the first 30 days, until Jan. 20. After that, you'll need to pay $5 to register, or risk civil and criminal penalties if you're caught flying an unregistered drone after Feb. 19. Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

"Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release explaining the process. "Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."

The full set of regulations covering drones and drone registration can be viewed here: www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/20151213_IFR.pdf

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Walmart Just Introduced Walmart Pay Another Mobile Payment System You'll Likely Never Use!

The mobile payment arena is quickly becoming the hottest new thing in tech these days. However, and very unfortunate for customers, we aren't seeing any sort of cross functionality or standardization and just about everyone out there is joining the game with their own 'ways to do things'!

Today retail giant Walmart has thrown their hat into the arena with yet another option, the retailer introduced Walmart Pay – what the company is calling a fast, easy and secure way for customers to pay with their smartphones in Walmart stores.

With this launch, Walmart becomes the only retailer to offer its own payment solution that works with any iOS or Android device, at any checkout lane, and with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift card – all through the Walmart mobile app. The mobile payment feature will be introduced in select stores beginning this month, with a nationwide launch to be complete by the first half of next year.

Checkout using Walmart Pay happens in three steps:
  1. Open: Visit any register, open the Walmart app and choose Walmart Pay. Then you'll need to activate your phone's camera.
  2. Scan: At any time during checkout, simply scan the code displayed at the register. Walmart Pay is now connected.
  3. Done: Associate scans and bags the items… and it’s done. An eReceipt will be sent to the app and can be viewed at any time.
”The Walmart app was built to make shopping faster and easier,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce. “Walmart Pay is the latest example – and a powerful addition – of how we are transforming the shopping experience by seamlessly connecting online, mobile and stores for the 140 million customers who shop with us weekly.”

Walmart's plan to launch their own stand alone app comes on the backbone of the company still refusing to accept other major mobile payment solutions through NFC like Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Along with other major retailers the company has been a major supporter of MCX and CurrentC - whose system uses QR codes displayed on a cashier’s screen and scanned by the consumer’s phone or vice versa to initiate and verify the transaction. The system is also designed to automatically apply discounts, use loyalty programs, and charge purchases to a variety of payment methods without passing sensitive financial data to the merchant.

By going it alone, and essentially shunning other mobile payment solutions, Walmart is taking a major gamble! For starters they are asking would be users to download yet another app that they may or may not being willing to use. For many users that might be a deal breaker especially when Samsung users can use Samsung Pay just about anywhere!

Secondly there are outside indeterminable factors like the variability in smartphones, camera quality, lens cleanliness, 3G/4G signal strength, and WiFi availability which all factor into the apps usability. Last but not least they are betting against and essentially shunning the casual shopper that likely won't already have the Walmart app and Walmart pay loaded to their phone, but might have Apple, Google or Samsung Pay. Ideally retailers should be willing and open to broad acceptance of all payment platforms, not just the ones they build and approve!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

From AI to Virtual Reality What Will Be The Hottest Tech Trends for 2016

Consumers are driving new technology and trends like never before. As the speed of technology adoption has increased, mass-market use becomes the norm much quicker than before. This means successful new products and services now reach the mass market in only a matter of years rather than the slower uptake of old. Engaged consumers are pushing the era of prosumption – consumers actively participating and engaging in the production process – often through online user reviews, opinion sharing, petitions and instant crowd activities such as crowd funding.

With the lightening fast changes in the tech world it is often difficult to predict what technology will evolve to become the next mainstream success. While many of the past predictions out there seemed overly futuristic, many of reached mass market adoptions faster than ever thought. This week Ericsson ConsumerLab released their 5th annual Hot Consumer Trends report for 2016, chalked full of some rather bold predictions for what hot new tech you may be seeing come to life in the next year.

The insights in the “10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016 (PDF)” report come from Ericsson ConsumerLab’s global research program and cover a range of consumer opinions. The broadest trend is representative of 1.1 billion people across 24 countries, whereas the narrowest represents 46 million urban smartphone users in 10 major cities.

These are the 10 trends for 2016 and beyond:
  1. The Lifestyle Network Effect. Four out of five people now experience an effect where the benefits gained from online services increases as more people use them. Globally, one in three consumers already participates in various forms of the sharing economy.
  2. Streaming Natives. Teenagers watch more YouTube video content daily than other age groups. Forty-six percent of 16-19 year-olds spend an hour or more on YouTube every day.
  3. AI Ends The Screen Age. Artificial intelligence will enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. One in two smartphone users think smartphones will be a thing of the past within the next five years.
  4. Virtual Gets Real. Consumers want virtual technology for everyday activities such as watching sports and making video calls. Forty-four percent even want to print their own food.
  5. Sensing Homes. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners believe bricks used to build homes could include sensors that monitor mold, leakage and electricity issues within the next five years. As a result, the concept of smart homes may need to be rethought from the ground up.
  6. Smart Commuters. Commuters want to use their time meaningfully and not feel like passive objects in transit. Eighty-six percent would use personalized commuting services if they were available.
  7. Emergency Chat. Social networks may become the preferred way to contact emergency services. Six out of 10 consumers are also interested in a disaster information app.
  8. Internables. Internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. Eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.
  9. Everything Gets Hacked. Most smartphone users believe hacking and viruses will continue to be an issue. As a positive side-effect, one in five say they have greater trust in an organization that was hacked but then solved the problem.
  10. Netizen Journalists. Consumers share more information than ever and believe it increases their influence on society. More than a third believe blowing the whistle on a corrupt company online has greater impact than going to the police.

Michael Björn, Head of Research, Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: “Some of these trends may seem futuristic. But consumer interest in new interaction paradigms such as AI and virtual reality (VR), as well as in embedding the internet in the walls of homes or even in our bodies, is quite strong. “This means we could soon see new consumer product categories appearing – and whole industries transforming – to accommodate this development.”

Monday, December 07, 2015

Worried About Stolen Mail? USPS May Soon Send You Images of What Is In Your Mailbox

We've all seen those nasty headlines, especially around the holiday season, that mail and package thefts are on the rise and while home security camera might catch that package thief in action it can be hard to see what they are stealing out of your mailbox. The United Postal Service (USPS) might soon have a solution!

The USPS is testing a new feature called Informed Delivery that will take and send up to 10 images a day of what's in your physical mailbox to your email inbox. The USPS will send black and white images of your actual letter-sized mail pieces, processed by USPS sorting equipment, each morning. You can then view the images which include things like sender information from any computer or a smart phone from just about anywhere in the world. For those with heavier mail loads, 10 pieces and above, you be able to view additional images on your online dashboard - in the same place you track your packages!

For now the service is only available to residential customers in Northern Virginia, NYC and Connecticut with further expansion "being considered" for 2016. In fact, the USPS says it has been testing the service in Virginia since 2014.

Once expansion begins the service will be free for all users with a My USPS account (also free) and it will be available to all residential customers in those geographic areas, sorry no business accounts. To see more information on Informed Delivery, geographic availability, and further enrollment questions, go to http://www.informeddelivery.com/learnmore .

Firefox’s Unpopular Sponsored Tiles Feature Discontinued

When it comes to free and open source projects developing revenue can be a tricky situation. Developers have to walk the fine line between what actually works best and generates the most revenue and what the community that supports them actually approves of. So it came as no surprise when Mozilla first announced the Tile Ads (or sponsored tiles) ad program it was met with a lot of  opposition from Firefox users, supporters and developers.

The feature, which basically injected ads inside blank tiles in Firefox's New Tab page, may have been opt-in only. However, users felt that the ads where overly intrusive since they are based on user habits, involving a fair amount of user tracking. And no matter how much or how well Mozilla tries to reassure users that the tracking and system are safe and private, users didn't buy and thought the whole thing was too much intrusion.

After shortly over 6mos of being released to the public, Mozilla has said the feature is being retired. Writing on the official Mozilla blog, vice president Darren Herman explains that while they believe that advertising in Firefox could be a great business, it isn’t the right business model for them at this time. He continues on stating that, "Our learnings show that users want content that is relevant, exciting and engaging. We want to deliver that type of content experience to our users, and we know that it will take focus and effort to do that right. We have therefore made the decision to stop advertising in Firefox through the Tiles experiment in order to focus on content discovery."

Sponsored tiles will continue to appear for the next few months while Mozilla "fulfills its commitments" (i.e. clears out ad inventory), but then they'll be gone entirely.

While it appears that we will soon see an end to some advertising in one of our all time favorite browsers, it does not completely mark the end for possible changes and ad inclusions down the road. According to Herman's blog post: "Mozilla will continue to explore ways to bring a better balance to the advertising ecosystem for everyone’s benefit, and to build successful products that respect user privacy and deliver experiences based upon transparency, choice and control."

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Upgrade Your Earbuds With Monster Clarity HD Headphones

Are you giving your favorite geeks a new smartphone or tablet this holiday season? If so don't overlook one of the most important updates you can add, and that is a set of great headphones! Whether they are music buffs, hard core gamers or movie fanatics adding a pair of high performance headphones is a must and is certain to make the holidays sound that much sweeter.

Let's face it, when it comes to picking out headphones or earbuds most of us stick with those crappy  free earbuds that come with our phone or tablet, that is if we even got any! Unfortunately we all know that those aren't even close to high quality and generally offer sub-par comfort and sound quality. For me they fall under the category of something you use to make do. Still most of us either don't upgrade or when we do we opt for another solution that isn't much better.

This is where Monster Products steps in, likely best known to many for their work in audio and video cables, the company has begun branching out to things like speakers, headphones, power packs and surge protectors. Believing that consumers deserve better, Monster has created an affordable (SRP: $49.95 wired/$89.95 wireless) line of high performance earbud headphones that offer consumers better comfort, build, sound, calls, and noise isolation, along with better wireless performance on the Bluetooth models. 
“The free earbuds you get with phones and portable devices break easily, fail on sound, and are uncomfortable with poor isolation. Still, we’ve found that many consumers that settle for these inferior earbuds pay to replace them, often multiple times, with the exact same models, despite their dissatisfaction! There’s a better way – and it’s Monster ClarityHD earbuds,” says Head Monster, Noel Lee. “Whether you prefer the wireless freedom of Bluetooth or wired, ClarityHD gives you step-up quality, step-up sound, step-up build materials and craftsmanship, better isolation, and better comfort with crystal clear calls at an incredible value. We’re giving everyone the opportunity to say goodbye to those generic commodity earbuds forever. The consumer deserves better.”

Better Fit For Better Comfort Which Creates Better Noise Isolation and Sound

Personal preference is a major factor when it comes to selecting earbuds or headphones. Most people either really like earbuds and hate headphones or vice versa. Generally this is due to bad experiences with one or the other. For me personally I never cared much for earbuds, mainly due to the fact that they never fit right and always irritate my ears!

Monster has done something to help alleviate that with the ClarityHD earbuds. They feature a patent applied oblique cone shaped front housing and three different soft-tip sizes that conform to almost any ear shape for a perfectly snug, comfortable fit that stays put and won’t slip out during activity. No more hard and wobbly earbuds that are constantly falling out while you are running or exercising or hard over-sized earbud tips that are rubbing your ears the wrong way.

This much better fit also offers much better sound isolation which in turn gives you much better sound quality. The tighter fit around the ear helps seal out some of the noise while the Monster CalrityHD's high-performance balanced acoustic chambers further sound damping for even better noise isolation. Combined the two eliminate much of the ambient background noise that is present while listening to music or taking calls offering you a much clearer crisper listening experience.

Better Build Means Longer Life

One problem that is universal to almost all earbuds and headphones is a relatively short lifespan. As most anyone out there know it doesn't take much to damage those thin wires, especially at the stress points like the jack. ClarityHD earbuds feature careful reinforcement at critical stress points to ensure protection from the fraying and tearing associated with generic earbuds. The wired ClarityHD models have flat, tangle-resistant cables and low-profile right angle connectors that stay out of the way and ensure a secure fit. Wireless models use the finest technology and build materials for a durable, long-lasting headphone that stands up to rigorous use.

The ClarityHD Bluetooth sets feature a dual battery design for double the life and all day listening. A USB charging port on the control box allows users to easily charge and the microelectronics are situated in line for better Bluetooth reception. The in-line mic is strategically placed at the ideal incidental angle for superior voice pick-up.

Monster ClarityHD wired earbuds are now available in Black, White, Green and Pink and the Monster ClarityHD Bluetooth earbuds are now available in Black and at monsterproducts.com and select retail stores such as Staples and Amazon.

Want a chance to win a free pair of your own? @MonsterProducts will be giving away 50 pairs of the all new Monster ClarityHD WIRELESS headphones to those of you that can come up with the best break-up stories. To get started, watch and share this hilarious video (http://bit.ly/claritybuds) then post your worst break up story followed by hashtag #YouDeserveBetter on Twitter or Instagram and you'll automatically be entered to win. Be sure to add a photo or video to enhance your story. The better the story, the higher the chances of winning!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Upgrading to Windows 10? Microsoft's Privacy Policies Now Make More Sense

Shortly after Microsoft released Windows 10 to the masses questions began to arise regarding several of Microsoft's new privacy policies and forced upgrade tactics. Many of these changes brought about some serious concerns for users worried that they would lose control over the data collected by Microsoft and lose even more control over what updates were and weren't installed on their machines.

Thankfully this past few weeks Microsoft has been working to alleviate some of these concerns and address many of the questions Windows 10 users have had. They have just released a new more simplified privacy policy that address concerns over their access to your encryption keys and makes it much more clear as to what data is collected and how it is used. On top of that, they have also made good on a promise for business users and released a new tool-set allowing the delay of Windows 10 updates (sorry home users nothing for us yet).

Microsoft's New Simplified Privacy Policy

ZDNet's Ed Bott spotted several recent updates to Microsoft's privacy statement, the lengthy document covering all of Microsoft's major online services, including Windows 10, OneDrive and others. The most recent update, dated October 2015, addresses concerns over how Microsoft handles your BitLocker drive encryption key as well as how they access your user generated content in response to law enforcement demands, to ensure safe operation of its services, and a few other situations. It also addresses the mandatory collection of telemetry data which can be a concern with many businesses operating under regulations that strictly prohibit dissemination of personal information.

First and foremost, and for us the most important, is how Microsoft will handle and use your encryption data. BitLocker drive encryption by default is backed up to OneDrive online, this is primarily to enable data recovery in certain situations. The previous description of  how and when Microsoft would access those keys was pretty vague. However, they have updated the new statement to note that "Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose" making clear that while the keys may be stored on OneDrive, Microsoft will not use them and is not interested in decrypting your disk.

The second major area of concern was how Microsoft would access your user generated content within Windows 10 and on your hard drive. Previously the scope of what they had access to and would share with law enforcement (should the need arise) was unclear. The new text makes it explicit that only files stored on OneDrive and e-mails stored in Outlook.com are covered by the Privacy Policy.

As for other changes they do address a few areas related to improvement of services, data collected for support and other things collected when using Cortana. For those changes I'd suggest reading Ed's full story as he covers it really well.

Gain Control of Windows 10 Updates

Thanks to a new feature in Windows 10 version 1511, you can now postpone or pause Windows 10 upgrades and updates, you don't need to be an expert to do so but you'll need a business edition of Windows 10.

Windows Update for Business (WUB) is essentially an overlay atop Windows Update. It is not a new service, nor a new product, but a new set of controls for managing the timing of how Windows Update delivers upgrades and updates to business editions of Windows 10.

Unfortunately for us Windows 10 Home users to use it you need Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education. The device also needs to be configured for the Current Branch for Business. Neither option is available for PCs running Windows 10 Home, where all updates are automatic. Using WUB, individuals and IT administrators can defer the two-to-three-times-a-year upgrades to devices on the "Current Branch for Business" (CBB), one of the three mainstream upgrade tracks and the one most Windows 10 enterprise machines will adopt.

Setting up WUB is a bit involved and unfortunately since it is relatively new there are few quick walkthroughs available. ZDnet does have a some of the details listed but the best option is likely going to be going through the documentation at TechNet.

Our thoughts on Windows 10

So far we've added Windows 10 to all of our devices including our Dell Intel 2in1, ASUS ROG Gaming laptop (which we just got) and all of our desktops (except one). Using Windows 10 on our Dell Venue Pro is a breeze thanks to the option of quickly changing between tablet and laptop mode. You can disconnect the keyboard and immediately be running in tablet mode for more fluid touchscreen support. One our older desktops machines we've noticed some minor improvements in speed and a slight performance boost.

In the end though we love the unified support structure. We have multiple users, all with their own accounts, that all sync across multiple devices. Additionally of our Windows 10 devices are deployed with the same basic setups so there isn't much need to hunt for files, folders or apps that you might have been using on other machine. It just makes life that much easier when swapping devices.

These new privacy policy changes were a bit concerning for us at first, especially given the nature of some of the things we deal with. Keeping user content safe and protected is always a concern and should be for anyone! The newest changes though really seem to help alleviate most of those concerns. So for anyone out there that has been holding off for the upgrade, I say go for it! But we'd like to hear your thoughts.

Do you think these new privacy policy changes go far enough to cover your concerns? or where you even concerned to begin with? Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? Will you now? Shoot us a comment below and share your thoughts.

#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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

These New Drones May Eventually Deliver Your Amazon Packages

While the FAA is still working out regulations for commercial drone usage (as well as public drone usage) Amazon has been working hard to fine tune its plans to use drones to aid in the delivery of your next Amazon Prime purchases. In a video featuring a long time geek favorite, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, Amazon shows off what we might expect to see from the company in the future!

As you can see from the video the prototype drones look like an odd combination of a helicopter and an airplane, which according to Amazon weighs in at a hefty 55 pounds. The drones are reported to be able to carry packages weighing up to 5 pounds to distances of 10 miles or more, flying under 400 feet utilizing what Amazon calls "sense and deploy" technology as well as a high degree of automation, to safely operate beyond the line of sight.

According to the updated Amazon Prime Air website the company believes they will be able to utilize the drones to "enhance the services they already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery" by using the unmanned aircraft to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

While there are currently no set regulations for commercial drone usage Amazon has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to find mutually beneficial regulations that would not only allow Amazon but other companies to safely deploy drones for package delivery. The company says the service will launch once the company has "the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision."

Other companies are also exploring drones as a new method of package delivery. Earlier this month, Walmart sought permission from the FAA to start drone testing, while Google reportedly revealed during an air traffic control convention in Washington, D.C., that it wants to launch a drone service in 2017.

The FAA has been working on creating reasonable regulations for not just commercial usage but public usage as well. On November 21, the FAA task force made its public drone registration recommendations, and instead of keeping track of each and every drone out there, it suggested registering the names and street addresses of the pilots (mailing address, email address, phone number and serial number of the aircraft are optional). The registration requirement will apply to any UAS less than 55 pounds (25kg) and heavier than half a pound (250 grams) and owners must be at least 13 years old. A parent or guardian can register for anyone younger than 13 years old.

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 FAA.gov 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: www.amazon.com/underground.

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 support@groupon.com 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: https://grouponvouchersettlement.com/. 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?

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Hackers Earn A Cool $1 Million With iOS 9 Remote Jailbreak

Just a few short months after security firm Zerodium offered a million dollar bounty for a working exploit that could remotely jailbreak an iPhone or iPad running the latest version of iOS a team of hackers may have found the answer and successfully claimed one of the $1 Million dollar prizes.

A tweet sent out on Monday from Zerodium congratulated one winning team, though it didn't identify the researchers, nor did they offer any further details of the exploit. However, it would appear as though they have submitted the results and Zerodium has confirmed that the exploit "is still being extensively tested by Zerodium to verify and document each of the underlying vulnerabilities."

The challenge consisted of finding a way to remotely jailbreak a new iPhone or iPad running the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS (in this case iOS 9.1 and 9.2b), allowing the attacker to install any app he or she wants with full privileges. The initial exploit, according to the terms of the challenge, had to come through Safari, Chrome, or a text or multimedia message.

Zerodium founder Chaouki Bekrar explained to Motherboard that the winning team found a "number of vulnerabilities" in Chrome and iOS to bypass "almost all mitigations" and achieve "a remote and full browser-based (untethered) jailbreak."

If true this would likely be the first such jailbreak since the days of iOS 7. Zerodium hasn’t revealed any details of the hack or provided and details of the team who is claiming the bounty, and isn’t likely to do so either. In the past Zerodium has been known to be an exploit accumulation service, gaining the information from security teams and then selling that exploit for a profit to the highest bidder. These bidders are more often than not intelligence agencies like NSA or FBI, who have often complained about how difficult it is to access an iPhone.

In this case Bekrar says he expects to sell the new iOS hack to a U.S. customer and has no intention of informing Apple of the security vulnerabilities that are used or how the exploit works.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Don't Lose Your Head This Halloween Get $10 Off Your TrackR

Lost or stolen items are often scary situations, one that many of us geeks face all to often! Whether it is a backpack containing all your gaming gear, that travel bag or something as simple as your wallet or cellphone, when something comes up missing it turns into a frantic nightmare.

Lucky for us there are several new tech based solutions out there to help you track down those items. One we've had our eyes on for awhile now is the new TrackR Bravo. This small coin-sized Bluetooth-enabled device is designed to attach to valuable items so they can be located using the TrackR app with either an iPhone or Android based device. And yes this could include those scary little ghouls and goblins while they are out trick-or-treating!

This week TrackR is offering up not just one but two scary good deals! Using the code TrackRTreat you can get $10 off your order. Additionally you can create a custom referral link (this is ours) that will allow you to receive a free TrackR Bravo anytime one of your friends, family members or fellow geeks buys one.

For those geeks out there like us that have been dying to try out the latest in tracking devices this is a great chance to do so. You'll get your TrackR for about $22 shipped and if you can get a couple of referrals involved you can get a few devices for what would be less than half the original cost!

So what are you waiting for, the promo code TrackRTreat expires after the Halloween weekend! Use our link (so we can get in on the freebie action) and get yours now!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Apple Tries to Explain Away iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist Data Concerns

While one of Apple's newest iOS 9 features has long been available and known to Android users it is a new feature for those on the iPhone, unfortunately however this also means a slew of new complaints, misunderstanding of its use and issues with the 'always on' status of the feature which has caused many to worry that their data usage will climb out of control.

iOS 9 introduced Apple iPhone users to Wi-Fi Assist a feature that automatically switches between Wi-Fi and mobile data in order to provide users the best connection possible.

"With Wi-Fi Assist, you can stay connected to the Internet even if you have a poor Wi-Fi connection," Apple explains. "For example, if you're using Safari with a poor Wi-Fi connection and a webpage doesn't load, Wi-Fi Assist will activate and automatically switch to cellular so that the webpage continues to load."

As many Android users well know Smart Network Switch, which is what the feature is known as for many Android users, is not without issues and has been known to cause high data consumption in many cases. These issues now appear to be impacting Apple Wi-Fi Assist users as several sites are reporting a surge in complaints over higher than normal data usage.

Users not familiar with the feature weren't aware of its on by default status and had no way of knowing that even though they thought they were using Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Assist was dropping those connections to connect to mobile data instead. At the heart of the issue, at least from what we have seen on Android devices, is even though it appears as though you have a great Wi-Fi connection the app may still drop one service over the other, favoring the stability of mobile data in many cases over inconsistent Wi-Fi connections.

Looking to ease some concerns over the growing number of complaints, and many articles calling on users to disable the new features, Apple this week updated its About Wi-Fi Assist page to provide users more details as to how the feature should behave. Apple specify wanted to note that the feature will not automatically switch to cellular if you're data roaming. It only works when you have apps running in the foreground, and won't activate with content downloading in the background. Apple also noted that Wi-Fi Assist won't (or shouldn't) activate with certain data-hogging, third-party apps. That includes apps that stream audio or video or download attachments, like email services.

For users concerned over how Wi-Fi Assist might be impacting their data usage there are a couple options. The easiest would be to simply turn it off via Settings > Cellular. Towards the bottom of the page, you'll find the Wi-Fi Assist switch; just toggle it off. Another more involved option would to restrict each app and their permission to use cellular data. That access can be revoked on the same Settings screen where you access Wi-Fi Assist. (There's been some discussion of this in Apple Support Communities.)