Thursday, May 28, 2015

Google Aims at Taking Control of All of Your Connected Devices With Project Brillo

Like it or not connect devices are here to stay. In the past few years we have seen everything from small appliances to thermostats and lights being connected to create the ever widening world of the Internet of Things (IoT). Unfortunately connecting this myriad of devices are several different systems (both operating systems and applications) and standards. Making it hard to get things to work together.

Enter Google and Project Brillo, a newly announced version of Android that has been slimmed down and optimized specifically for manufactures to give you a uniform experiences across all your Internet-connected home and geek gadgets.

Brillo is "derived from Android [and] lets developers and manufacturers build connected devices," Google said. "As part of Brillo, we're introducing a communications protocol (Weave) developed in partnership with Nest, a set of developer APIs, a core set of schemas, and a certification program to ensure device and app interoperability."

The approach from Google is a simple one, there are now more than one billion Android users worldwide with Android being featured on more than 4,000 unique devices, from more than 400 manufacturers and over 500 carriers. With that, according to Gartner, IoT products are expected to boom over the next several years with more than 25 billion connected devices expected to be in use in homes and at work by 2020. 

With Project Brillo Google wants to ensure that geeks and gadget lovers everywhere have a more simplified user experience by taking control of the operating system is at the heart of each and every one of those devices.

"Our day-to-day lives will be much simpler when these technologies can talk to each other—if our recipe app, for example, could communicate with our smart oven to turn the temperature to exactly the right setting," Google said in a blog post. "​Or outside the home—from transportation systems that notify commuters of schedule changes, to farms where harvesters and irrigation systems are controlled from phones."

Brillo launches in the third quarter, while its corresponding IoT language – called Weave – is slated for Q4.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Twitter Finally Makes Popular Live Streaming App Periscope Available On Android

For some time now you've likely heard of the rising popularity of the live streaming app Periscope, which until today was an iOS exclusive.  Finally after months of hearing how great the app is, us Android Geeks finally get to take it for a spin!

Today's release of the Android version comes roughly two months after the iOS version, which has shown to be very popular with more than one million users joining Periscope in its first 10 days on the iPhone app store.The app has quickly become a go-to of sorts for Twitter users, celebrities, and those citizen journalist out there that want to be seen and heard.

For those unfamiliar with the app it offers a couple of basic functions with the main concept of Periscope being the ability to allow viewers and broadcasters to virtually connect anywhere in the world. The app provides the opportunity for those wanting to broadcast to share their experience with others, be it something personal, newsworthy or whatever. With the simple press of a button, broadcasters connect and instantly notify followers that they are live allowing them to view video streams.

For viewers you get the opportunity to see the world from the broadcasters POV. You essentially step into someone else’s shoes, following along with whatever might be happening at the moment. On Periscope, viewers are also encouraged to influence the broadcaster by sending messages, and engagements to create an interactive experience.

At its core, the Android app functions the same as it does in iOS, letting you both watch and record live broadcasts on your phone, but there a couple features exclusive to this new release. The major difference Android users will notice is the addition of useful new feature called "return to broadcast," which lets those watching a stream quickly get caught up to the live action after interruptions like phone calls and text messages. Other changes are limited to UI design and greater control over app notifications.

For those Android Geeks out there that are interested Periscope is available now for download on the Google Play Store, requiring Android version 4.4 KitKat or above. Of course if you do try it out, let us know in a comment below, we'd love to see some feedback!

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Free Service Makes Getting Price-Drop Refunds Automatic

I have yet to meet a geek that doesn't like to save money! Of course we all know sometimes that can be easier said than done. You have to make that concerted effort to watch your favorite deal sites for the best deals, use price match policies or search out refunds. Then once you do get the best deal you get annoyed because the price drops even lower.

These days many stores have policies that offer to refund shoppers when this happens, but as most good deal seeking geeks know it can be a major hassle trying to keep track of all of your recent purchases and sale prices from those retailers in order to take advantage of price-drop refunds.

We now have a solution, a service called Paribus. The concept here is a simple one, maybe a little intrusive, but still simple nonetheless and even better it is free, well until they get you a refund and then it only cost you 25%.

Here are the basics that you need to know: When getting started you sign up to Paribus and link your email accounts that you typically do your shopping from. The service then watches for receipts that come in as you shop online, or in stores that offer receipts by email. When a new purchase is made and an invoice is emailed to you, Paribus records it in your account and monitors the price of the items you purchased. If there is a coupon you missed, or if the price of any items drops, Paribus will automatically file a claim with the store at which you purchased the items and get you a refund.

Sounds pretty simple too me! The great part is, again that there is no charge for the service. If they don't get you a refund they don't get paid! The one downside I see if any, would be allowing an outside service access to your email and invoices which might be a deal breaker for some...but hey
I like to save money so I might be willing to give it a shot.

We should note that at this time the Paribus service only works with 18 different merchants, but they’re all large retailers that are very popular especially amongst use geeks and include sites, such as Newegg, Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy.

Here’s the full list of supported merchants:
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Macy’s
  • Best Buy
  • Newegg
  • Staples
  • Target
  • Bonobos
  • J. Crew
  • Nordstrom
  • Banana Republic
  • Gap
  • Old Navy
  • Athleta
  • Piperlime
  • Walmart
The company says it is constantly working to add additional merchants. There’s one more important thing to note with Paribus: every merchant has different policies where price-drop refunds are concerned. That shouldn't be any issue here, in fact it should be a major plus as now you won't need to remember those policies or have to deal with anything related to customer service. Paribus should handle all that for you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

PayPal to Pay $25 million In Fines and Refunds For Credit Card Deception

A top US financial consumer protection watchdog has slapped PayPal with fines totally more than $25million for claims that the online payment company illegally and unknowingly signed up users for PayPal Credit, coerced users to use PayPal Credit instead of their preferred payment method and mishandled billing disputes.

According to the filings and and ongoing investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau PayPal illegally signed tens of thousands of customers up for credit cards through the company's PayPal Credit, formerly known as Bill Me Later, without their permission. It also made changes to account holders accounts changing their default payment method to utilize their PayPal credit card, and then failed to address disputes when customers complained.

“PayPal illegally signed up consumers for its online credit product without their permission and failed to address disputes when they complained,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Online shopping has become a way of life for many Americans and it’s important that they are treated fairly. The CFPB’s action should send a signal that consumers are protected whether they are opening their wallets or clicking online to make a purchase.”

Since 2008, PayPal has offered PayPal Credit to consumers across the country making purchases from thousands of online merchants, including eBay. In their filings with the US District Court in Maryland the CFPB alleges that many consumers who were attempting to enroll in a regular PayPal account, or make an online purchase, were signed up for a credit product without realizing it. The company also failed to post payments properly, lost payment checks, and mishandled billing disputes that consumers had with merchants or the company. Tens of thousands of consumers experienced these issues. Specifically, the CFPB alleges that the company:
  • Deceptively advertised promotional benefits: The CFPB alleges that PayPal failed to honor advertised promotions, such as a $5 or $10 promised credit toward consumer purchases.
  • Abusively charged consumers deferred interest: The CFPB alleges that PayPal offered consumers limited-time, deferred-interest promotions, and that PayPal purported to let consumers pick how payments would be applied to these promotional balances. But consumers who attempted to contact the company to get more information or request to apply their payments to promotional balances often could not get through to the company’s customer service line or were given inaccurate information. Many such consumers were hit with deferred-interest fees that, due to the company’s conduct, they could not avoid.
  • Enrolled consumers in PayPal Credit without their knowledge or consent: The CFPB alleges that the company often automatically enrolled consumers in PayPal Credit when those consumers were signing up for a regular PayPal account or making purchases. The company enrolled other consumers while they tried canceling or closing out of the application process. Many consumers ended up enrolled in PayPal Credit without knowing how or why they were enrolled. They discovered their accounts only after finding a credit-report inquiry or receiving welcome emails, billing statements, or debt-collection calls for amounts past due, including late fees and interest.
  • Made consumers use PayPal Credit for purchases instead of their preferred payment method: The CFPB alleges that the company automatically set or preselected the default payment method for all purchases made through PayPal to PayPal Credit. This meant consumers used PayPal Credit even when they intended to use another method of payment such as a linked credit card or checking account. Other consumers were not able to select another payment method, finding that their purchases were charged to a PayPal Credit account even when they affirmatively selected another payment. Many of these consumers incurred late fees and interest because they did not know they had made purchases through PayPal Credit.
  • Engaged in illegal billing practices: The CFPB alleges that the company failed to post payments or failed to remove late fees and interest charges from consumers’ bills even when the consumers were unable to make payments because of website failures. Numerous consumers reported that the company lost payment checks or took more than a week to process checks.
  • Mishandled consumer disputes about payments: The CFPB also alleges that PayPal mishandled consumers’ billing disputes and made billing errors.
Under a proposed settlement, PayPal will hand over $15 million in refunds to consumers and another $10 million in civil penalties. The company also will have to improve its disclosures for PayPal Credit. PayPal neither admitted nor denied any of the complaint's allegations, and the settlement doesn't constitute a finding that the company violated any laws. Consumers who are eligible for payments don't need to take any action; they will be contacted by PayPal, the CFPB said.

Popcorn Time Moves to Your Browser Making It Super Easy to Stream Torrented Movies

For those that don't mind the 'legal grey are' of streaming move torrents, Popcorn Time has become a major must have! The nifty little app, which we were first introduced to last year, gave us geeks a quick and easy way to find and download all of our latest movie favorites.

Since its original inception the app and services have come a long way. First moving to mobile platforms such as Android and iOS then adding support for streaming devices like Chromescast. Now, the app often dubbed the Netflix for pirated movies, takes another leap which makes it even easier too use!

Thanks to a new 'anonymous' development team and a service that is a mashup between popular torrenting site YTS that is used to for the content and a cloud streaming service, geeks everywhere have access to video streaming directly in any browser with no apps to install. All they need to do is vista a site called Popcorn Time In Your Browser.

The site features a fairly simplistic user interface, with little more than a few movie suggestions and a search box. However, that shouldn't be an issue with most because all the magic happens behind the scenes! Popcorn Time's servers handle everything, you won't be downloading any applications or torrents onto your computer, and from what we see nothing is stored locally— you'll be streaming the content via the cloud.

Since the site is taking the minimal approach here there is no built-in VPN service like what’s included in the desktop software, so if you’re going to use the Popcorn In Your Browser site, it’s probably best to use a VPN of your own if you’d like to keep your activity private. It’s also important to keep in mind that the Popcorn Time brand operates under anonymity, and different apps are run by different teams—so it’s hard to say who specifically is operating the site. Meaning you never know who might be tracking your activity there!

As always, use tools like this at your own risk and please keep in mind there are still several legal issues surrounding their use!! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Microsoft Says No Freebies For Pirates, Still Offers Upgrade Deals

As the release date for Windows 10 inches closer and closer the web is dotted with a lot of misinformation regarding claims that Microsoft would be giving away free copies of Windows 10. The blame for most of this bad information lies directly at the feet of Microsoft, and their developers, who have made a few statements that in the end aren't entirely accurate.

Looking to clear up one of the biggest rumors; That owners of counterfeit copies of Windows 7 and 8.1 will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 this summer Microsoft offered a statement that should finally lay some of these claims to rest.

"Our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to non-genuine Windows devices," said Terry Myerson, the head of Windows, in a May 15 post on the Windows blog. "Microsoft and our OEM partners know that many consumers are unwitting victims of piracy, and with Windows 10, we would like all of our customers to move forward with us together. While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we’ve always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state."

Myerson's post, which was entirely dedicated to the topic of Windows 10 and non-genuine licenses, was just the latest in a series of highly confusing statements by Microsoft since March, when it was previously reported that Myerson said pirated copies could be upgraded to the new OS using the free deal. Those statements made at the time led many to believe that non-genuine licenses (aka pirated copies) would be able to upgrade, however they would still be seen as 'illegal' copies. Meaning users wouldn't have a fully working legitimate copy of the new OS.

Even with this newer explanation there seems to be a bit of vagueness as Myerson added the statement that Microsoft would "continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state." In additional comments he also stated that, "when we [MS] can’t verify that Windows is properly installed, licensed, and not tampered with, we create a desktop watermark to notify the user" something that sound similar to what we see on Windows now with the Windows 7 Non-Genuine Notifications.

Either way you shake things Microsoft is working harder than ever to get more users to upgrade to their newest software and become legitimate paying customers. Not only are they offering the free upgrade but the company has also said that it's planning to run some "very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers" that will allow people with pirated copies to move to an official version. Specific details of that haven't been announced yet, but that likely won't come until we actually hear about when Windows 10 will arrive. For now, it's still targeted for this summer.

Google “Buy” Button May Soon Help Geeks Get Their Shopping Fix

According to the Wall Street Journal your Google search results may undergo a new change that is intended to make it easier for you to connect with retailers and get your shopping fix on. Sources familiar with the new service claim that Google will slowly begin rolling out a new feature on its mobile search results that will show what most are calling the Google 'Buy Button, that will allow you to "Shop on Google" from within sponsored search results.

No Google isn't jumping into the e-tailer program and offering products on its own. According to the reported the Google Buy Button will be similar to those offerings we've seen in past such as the Facebook Buy Button.

Google users searching for products on their mobile sites will see the new 'Buy Button' which will then take users to a new page to verify their order and make a purchase. As with Facebook's option the new feature will only appear when users search for products and then when those products are available from advertisers who opt in to Google Services. Google will facilitate the transactions, all inventory and shipping will be handled by the retailers, which will keep 100 percent of the payment and simply pay the tech company for its advertising services.

Many fear that the move may be harmful to Google's relationship with advertisers yet they note that as more users head directly into apps and skip Google when shopping on their phones, Google has little choice but to add a feature that will make shopping more seamless for consumers.

The move is an interesting direction for Google to take, but the search giant has been taking several steps to improve the experience and visibility of its search and services on mobile. Recently we've seen Google begin showing more Android apps to its search results, as well as more tie-ins to service like Google Music and Google Video. A move that it hopes would drive more users to its additional services and allow users to discover even more apps that are not yet installed on their device that may be relevant to their queries. It has also recently given priority to web sites that have mobile-friendly pages in its search results.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sprint and Verizon Must Pay $158 Million In Fines You May Be Due A Refund

The Federal Communications Commission has fined Verizon $90 million and Sprint $68 million for what is know as cramming, or the charging of unauthorized third-party charges to their customer's bills. The good news, according to the FCC statement the majority of the fines will be going to customers as a refund meaning you may be owned a portion of the settlement.

The State Attorneys General and federal regulators allege that cramming occurred when Sprint and Verizon placed charges from third parties on consumers’ mobile telephone bills without the consumers’ knowledge or consent.

The monthly charge for these third-party premium text messaging services ranged from $0.99 to $14.00, but typically were $9.99 per month. Verizon retained 30 percent or more of each third-party charge that it billed, while Sprint received approximately 35 percent of collected revenues for each of its third-party charges.

Numerous consumers have complained to the FCC, other government agencies, and the carriers that they never requested or authorized the third-party services for which they were charged. Customers who called to complain were often denied refunds, and yet, when the FCC requested proof that customers had authorized charges, the carriers were unable to prove that these services were ever requested."

Consumers the believe they are owed refunds can submit claims under the redress programs by visiting and/or On those websites, consumers can submit claims, find information about refund eligibility and how to obtain a refund, and request a free account summary that details PSMS purchases on their accounts. Consumers who have questions about the redress programs can visit the program websites or call the settlement administrators at (877) 389-8787 (Sprint) and/or (888) 726-7063 (Verizon).

Verizon Now Owns Some of Your Favorite Geek Sites Thanks to $4.4 bn AOL Buyout

Verizon made some major headlines today when it announced that it will buy AOL for $4.4 billion, acquiring not just but also AOL's "premium portfolio of global content brands, including The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said: “Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.”

The new acquisition may be a major concern to us geeks out there that frequent sites like Engadget as Verizon may want to change some of their formatting or even restrict/limit topics or content. However, in a tweet this morning Engadget editor Terrence O'Brien said nothing will change, with Senior Editor Chris Velazco going one step further tweeting, "if anything, I'm looking forward to scrutinizing Verizon EVEN MORE!"

Update: Engadget has posted this response to questions about the team's ability to maintain editorial integrity in the face of the buyout stating, "It doesn't matter who pays our salaries; we're not in the business of censorship. Engadget's editorial isn't for sale. It never has been, and it never will be. Not as long as I [Michael Gorman] and Executive Editor Christopher Trout are running things."

Buyouts of this nature often leave us sitting in murky waters, not knowing exactly what so expect from the new parent company. In this case however it would seem as though Verizon's best bet would be to leave their new properties to their own devices. All three are major players in the online world and have very strong followings in the tech sector. Unfortunately, we have seen in the past that parent companies do not see things the same way and changes are all to often made.

If the deal is approved by regulatory bodies, AOL will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon, which means Verizon will not only get their content platforms, but also AOL's original video content and advertising platform alongside AOL's lingering dial-up business which still services 2.1 million people. AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong will continue to lead the subsidiary. If all goes well Verizon expects the deal to close late this summer.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Windows 10 May Be The Last Official Version of Windows

With Windows 10 set to make its official debut later this year and Microsoft re-shifting their focus and the role of the operating system to create more of a Windows as a service model, we may be seeing the final days of traditional Windows releases and the traditional branding methodology we know today.

Speaking during the Ignite conference held earlier this week, Microsoft developer evangelist Jerry Nixon made a rather intriguing statement. Nixon stated that, "Right now we're releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we're all still working on Windows 10."

This statement has been taken by many to mean that Microsoft's refocusing of Windows as a service will mean the death of what we now know of Windows as being. Now that doesn't mean that Microsoft isn't going to launch future versions of Windows after Windows 10. Instead, it looks like we will see a shift towards the model Apple currently has. We'll see Microsoft releasing more frequent updates with an ever evolving operating system rather than major new releases every few years.

In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft looked to clarify Nixon's original statement:
Recent comments at Ignite about Windows 10 are reflective of the way Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner, with continuous value for our consumer and business customers. We aren't speaking to future branding at this time, but customers can be confident Windows 10 will remain up-to-date and power a variety of devices from PCs to phones to Surface Hub to HoloLens and Xbox. We look forward to a long future of Windows innovations.
We're already seeing how this may be implemented with security updates. Microsoft has already announced that it would be changing the way they release updates, ending what is traditionally called Patch Tuesday, instead delivering updates as soon as they are ready.

From the foundation of it, it looks like we will need to start rethinking the way we view Windows updates from Windows 10 on. It sounds like we will start to see something much closer to our mobile operating systems like Android, where as most of your major updates are done for specific apps and services, while overall system updates that warrant full version numbers will be further in-between.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

JetBlue Partners With Amazon to Offer Free In Flight Amazon Prime Video Streaming

In flight entertainment just got a big boost thanks to a new partnership between Amazon and JetBlue. Under the new pairing Amazon Prime members will be able to use their current Amazon Prime membership and Instant Video services to stream videos, music and more during their JetBlue flights.

The new partnership will enable JetBlue’s free high-speed Fly-Fi broadband internet for use by Amazon Prime members, giving them access to Prime's selection of thousands of movies, TV shows and more at no additional cost. Fly-Fi will give users internet speeds they would get at home or work, thanks to the use of satellite technology. In addition, all JetBlue customers will be able to rent or purchase hundreds of thousands of titles in the Amazon Instant Video store, including new-release movies and day-after TV programming, over the free broadband internet.

“We want to provide the best digital video experience to our customers and we’re excited that, with JetBlue, we will raise the bar in airline entertainment,” said Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon. “We’re thrilled that Fly-Fi technology will give Prime members and customers unlimited, on-demand access to the full catalog of titles from Amazon’s digital video library while they’re in the sky—without the need to rush to download one more episode or movie before taking off, we’re helping make airline travel more enjoyable.”

For Prime members, Amazon’s entertainment library will be built into the JetBlue Fly-Fi Hub, giving customers instant access to watch titles from Amazon on their laptops, Fire devices, iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets—no pre-flight download needed. JetBlue’s free Fly-Fi broadband internet will be available on all of JetBlue’s Airbus A321 and A320 aircraft this year, and on JetBlue’s Embraer E190 aircraft in 2016.

JetBlue's website description of Fly-Fi says its new Ka-band satellite service is "much faster than competing Ku-band satellites and older ground-to-air technology, giving you a Wi-Fi experience that feels more like what you have at home or work." The service, which is listed as still in beta, offers two tiers: Tier one is basic Internet access for free while tier 2 is the Fly-Fi Plus plan that typically costs users $9/hour and offers faster service that supports "bandwidth-heavy applications like streaming movies and large downloads."

Source: Amazon Media Room