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    August 25, 2014
    TiVo’s Cable-Free DVR

    With every signal-disrupting thunderstorm, I consider even stronger the possibility of cutting out television entirely.  I like DirecTV quite a bit (definitely much more than my current cable option), but that’s both irritating and a disruption to my freelance writing career.  After all, you can’t write about TV if you can’t watch TV.  However, my satellite comes with a DVR, which is a really handy tool to have when you’ve got lots of programs and lots of options all on at the same time.  Those who have cut the cable don’t have that luxury, particularly if they lean on satellite television for their local programming.

    Enter TiVo, the original DVR company, who have a solution.  The TiVo Roamio OTA DVR is a $50 DVR with four tuners designed to record antenna television.  The Roamio packs in four tuners and a 500GB hard drive, meaning you can record about 75 hours of HD television.  As if that wasn’t enough, it also retains TiVo’s streaming media interfaces for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video, to further make life easier for the cord-cutters.  It still has a $15-per-month TiVo subscription fee, but that’s a small price to pay for a high-tech VCR replacement capable of recording four programs at once.

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    August 22, 2014
    Windows 9 Coming September 30

    The future is the tablet.  The future is the touch screen.  The future is the smartphone.  None of these things (except maybe the touchscreen) are anything like a desktop computer.  If you want power, speed, reliability, ease of use… for the most part, that’s the desktop in a nutshell.  The tablet is a go-kart; the desktop is a full-sized car.  For the moment, it can do more, but it’s also a little harder to maintain.  That leads us to the newest “engine” on the computer market, from the biggest software company out there.  Microsoft Windows 9 is rumored to make its public debut on September 30.

    Of course, that’s all rumors for the moment, but it’s coming from The Verge, so it’s a pretty reliable rumor.  The above leaked screenshot is alleged to be Windows Threshold (the codename for Windows 9) in action.  It is believed that Windows 9 will offer both programs and live widgets, and will allow for users to run apps in resizable windows, rather than making them full-screen.  The popular voice-powered live assistant Cortana, currently living on Windows phones, is expected to make the trip over to the desktop side, as well.

    All in all, it looks like a more desktop-friendly OS, after Windows 8′s attempt to marry the smartphone and desktop operating systems was panned so widely by desktop users.  Still, Cortana will be fun, assuming you have a microphone and can talk to your computer.

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    August 22, 2014
    Five Helpful Back To School Apps

    Going back to school is always a major disruption in routine.  No matter your age, your life will be interrupted.  Kids know the pain all too well, and that pain doesn’t go away when elementary school becomes college and uniforms become pajamas to class.  Fortunately, college students these days have many more advantages than I did when I went to college back in the early 00′s, and that advantage is in their pocket.  Smart phones make life worlds easier, and apps make that process even more painless.  Here are NBC’s picks for five helpful back-to-school apps.

    Of these, the one that seems like it might be the most helpful to pretty much anyone is Sleepbot.  If I had a smart phone, I’d probably be downloading it as we speak to help monitor my sleeping patterns and see if there’s any rhyme to the reason I get wake up three times a night lately.  Keeping track of my sleep debt also seems like it might be helpful information, if only because I know I owe the Sandman a lot of ZZZs.

    Image:  Little Big Details

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    August 20, 2014
    Roku’s Streaming-Media TV

    Roku was one of the first companies to tap the power of the Internet to make the home television experience more pleasant.  Everyone wants to watch YouTube videos, but why watch them on a phone screen when you can watch them on a full-sized television like an adult?  Since then, Roku has only expanded their offerings while improving their services, and this latest announcement from the company may be the biggest, and best, news of all.  Roku is launching their first line of streaming-video televisions dedicated to streaming video.

    If you want to stream it,  you can.  Cable or antenna service is only added after you request it during television set-up, but streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Walmart’s VUDU, Rdio, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and more are all included from the jump, with the bigger services (Hulu, Amazon, VUDU, and Rdio) having one-touch launch buttons on the remote.  The televisions range in size from a 32-inch model for $229 to a 55-inch model for $649 and feature three HDMI inputs, just in case you didn’t have enough with 1500 available streaming channels.  The televisions are all 1080p full HD and are compatible with the Roku app for control via tablets and smartphones.

    The sets themselves will be manufactured by Hisense and TCL, both Chinese companies, and will feature the same features with the same remotes; the Hisense models don’t have an MSRP, with sellers able to set prices.  The TCL sets will be for sale beginning in late August, while the Hisense sets will be available by September.

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    August 20, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Email For Old People

    From a #TEDC14 talk by MailChimp’s John Foreman as taken by @jennstolen.

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    August 19, 2014
    Verizon Tops Speed And Reliability Measures Yet Again

    Once again, Verizon is the king of cell service providers.  According to RootMetrics, Verizon bested the competition in all categories except text messages, where it came in second to AT&T.  However, the gap between Verizon and AT&T is very narrow indeed, so it’s looking like a real war of attrition between the two top providers, with everyone else fighting for third place.  Speed, performance, call performance, data performance, reliability… everything but texting was Verizon’s category to win, with AT&T nipping at their heels the entire way.

    Interestingly, T-Mobile is making a big push as well, improving its coverage in several big cities and states and making big strides in ratings from where it once lingered at the bottom of all the rankings.  Of course, performance in a few locations isn’t performance everywhere, and if you’re going to be doing any kind of traveling, Verizon is probably still your choice to get coverage in areas in the hinterlands, as well as a performance leader in big cities and most states.  Any improvement is a good sign, and it’s nice to see that T-Mobile is teaming its renewed push for customers with a renewed interest in improving service.

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    August 15, 2014
    Britain’s Tate Museum Adds Creepy Robots

    If you ever get the chance to go to London, expect to spend a lot of time in museums.  After all, the city is home to some of the world’s most famous museums, and each museum is loaded down with hundreds of priceless pictures, artifacts, sculptures, paintings, and all that sort of artsy stuff that are worth taking the time to visit.  However, between Buckingham Palace and St. James Park and the British Museum and all the other stuff that you have to do, it’s easy to miss some things.  In my case, I missed the Tate Museum, which is a shame in and of itself.  However, not to worry.  The Tate Museum will be open for late-night online visitors courtesy of an army of creepy robots.

    The Robots will have LED lights and cameras, and lucky visitors to the Tate website could be the lucky folks who get to actually control and pilot the robots.  Tour guides will provide commentary as the robots roll silently around the darkened Tate Museum, like creepy mechanical guards standing sentinel over 500 years of artwork.  It’s a cool thing, but it’s also for a limited amount of time, so be mindful and cross your fingers that you’ll get lucky.

    “We want it to feel a bit spooky, a bit mysterious,” says Jane Burton, Creative Director of Tate Media at the museum. “[Online users] will probably see different things in the artwork than [visitors] would see in them if they came during the day.  ”From your couch, anywhere in the world, if you’ve got the right Internet connection and browser, you can come and see what we have in our galleries, at night.”

    If this sounds like something you’re interested in, and why wouldn’t it be, you can check it out at the Tate Museum’s After Dark website.

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    August 15, 2014
    Microsoft: Give IE Another Shot

    Would you ever go back to Internet Explorer after having left the browser monolith for one of the new kids on the block?  I’m not sure I would (though I don’t have any terrible stories to report about using IE), but Microsoft is trying an unusual tactic to boost IE’s browser share back to the heights it once enjoyed in the 1990′s:  asking politely.  In a thread on Reddit, Microsoft employees asked users to give IE another shot.

    “Often times the decision to not use Internet Explorer is largely based on experiences from a decade ago, and a much different IE,” argued Microsoft’s Jonathan Sampson during a Reddit AMA.  ”That being said, we know it’s our job to change the public perception, and to win the hearts of users everywhere.  Each [person who] opens IE, and downloads another browser, is another person we’ll be working even harder tomorrow to win back.”

    I’ve used IE at work here and there, and I have to admit that after the clean interface of Google Chrome, it’s really hard to go back to IE (though admittedly I may not be using the latest version of IE given how slow things to move in the real world when you’re dealing with tens of thousands of computers spread across hundreds of locations).  Still, it hasn’t been all bad.  It seems functional enough and I don’t have any major complaints that don’t stem from it not being the Google Chrome I’m used to.

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    August 14, 2014
    Tom Hanks Brings The Typewriter To The iPad

    Tom Hanks is a fan of typewriters.  In fact, the movie star once had over 200 typewriters in his collection.  That’s a real fan!  In fact, Hanks is such a fan that modern modes of typing just don’t do it for him, so he made an app for that.  Tom Hanks has released the Hanx Writer app for the iStore, which turns your iPad into an old-school typewriter.  The look is the same, but the sound effects and typewriter fonts will run $2.99.

    “What’s pleasing to my sensibilities is when you have the report of the key being struck, it allows for clear thinking,” Hanks told USA TODAY.  ”I suppose some people who get the app may just be looking for a different sound, but really it’s for people searching for a more personalized experience when writing on an iPad.  There’s also the opportunity here to take your iPad to a coffee house and be really obnoxious with all the clickety-clacking.”

    As someone who types a lot, I love the sound and feel of an old typewriter (or failing that, a mechanical keyboard).  That’s not always something you can manage with a tablet experience, but Hanx Writer works with bluetooth keyboards and iPads, so you can get as close to authentic as you can.  Kudos, T.Hanks.

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    August 13, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Groot Is Cute

    Via Imgur.

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