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    January 20, 2016
    Google Perks Up Chrome Speeds

    I love Google Chrome.  It’s the browser of choice for people who want to get things done, safely and quickly.  There’s no memory leak, and it’s more secure when it comes to viruses compared to the competition, and Google is only going to make it better.  Google is planning on making Chrome even faster with some tweaks to the software powering it.  By compressing the data before it reaches your web browser, it makes things move even faster, no matter your connection speed.

    Brotli promises to boost speeds by 26 percent over Chrome’s current processing system, which is good news because the fastest web browser on the market is about to get even faster.  Who complains about getting things faster?  Well, no one, that I know of, but if you need more evidence that it’s good, it also promises to lower battery drain and data usage.  Brotli is coming in the next update for Chrome, and Firefox is also on board, adopting Brotli as their algorithm of choice.

    I can only hope that the next edition of Chrome comes out pretty quickly, so I can experience the speed boost for myself.

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    January 15, 2016
    Smart Thermostats Hit By Bugs

    When I got a new furnace put in my house in November, I had to decide just what kind of thermostat I wanted to use.  Did I want to install a smart thermostat, a programmable thermostat, a normal thermostat?  And did I want a very smart thermostat or just a regular type smart thermostat?  I ended up getting a pretty simple programmable thermostat, with settings for the working week, Saturday, and Sunday, with options for the heat before work, during the day, after work, and overnight.  It’s not smart, but it’s pretty close, and it doesn’t need fancy software to function.  Good thing, too.

    A bug in the software is leaving Nest users in the cold, literally.  A bug in the code previously disabled some Nest services in September, and now that we’re officially in winter’s embrace, those outages are very troublesome.  Nest users were sleeping at night and waking up to cold houses and drained batteries, leaving them in the cold quite literally.  Fortunately, there’s a fix:  you plug your thermostat into the USB port or press a few buttons to reset things, and Nest go back to normal.

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    January 14, 2016
    Netflix To Clamp Down On Proxy Sneakers

    I have a lot of friends in the UK, and while I won’t name any names, they’re all quite good at using proxy servers and manipulating settings on their computers to get around blocks keeping them from streaming the Nextflix offerings viewed by users in the United States or Canada or one of the other countries where Netflix is currently operating.  Other users, in countries where Netflix has no official offering, also use proxy servers to get access to streaming movies.  All of these users pay Netflix subscription fees, so Netflix isn’t losing money, but content providers don’t like it, because having control is what Hollywood companies are all about.  So Netflix is going to play ball.

    Netflix is going to make it hard for users to get around regional distribution blocks.  Currently, a simple visit to a proxy server will allow you to, say, get to UK Netflix to watch something that isn’t offered on US Netflix or vice-versa.  It helps when you want to do things like watch British TV not available in the United States, but there’s a reason there aren’t a lot of region-free DVDs able to be played around the world.  Studios like to price things to market, and if you could buy a DVD from the US for $5 versus the Australian equivalent of $25 American dollars, you’d do that all day long.  I guess the fee for licensing Parks & Recreation in the UK versus a worldwide license fee makes someone more money.

    As it is, apparently Netflix has already started clamping down on proxies, so the fun won’t last for much longer if you’re currently a proxy user.

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    January 13, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: No Longer Communicating

    via Daily Mail

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    January 11, 2016
    Getting The Most Out Of Your Fitbit

    One of the most popular presents of the year has to be the Fitbit.  Even I got a Fitbit for Christmas this year, and I’m trying to make sense of it, how to use it, all that good stuff.  I’ve also seen a lot of other people wearing Fitbits (now that I know what to look for on the wrist).  With every new device there’s a bit of a learning curve; I’ve got a lot of questions about my Fitbit that I don’t really have answers for, but there’s help out there.  PC World has put together a list of tips for getting the most out of your Fitbit.

    I’ve been using my Fitbit to track my steps and the like, and I had no idea that I had to actually set a stride in order to get a proper measurement of just how far I’ve walked and how many steps I’ve actually taken.  Likewise, I had no idea that the Fitbit would count calories for me, or work in common with MyFitnessPal.  That’s all very helpful stuff to know, and if it would work with, say, my Daily Plate account, that’d be great.  As it is, I have a lot of exploring to do with my new Fitbit.


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    December 30, 2015
    The Lost Tech Of 2015

    Every year is the last year of something someone has fond memories of.  It seems that 2015 has been a particularly rough year for technology, as there’s been a pretty high rate of loss, closing down, and elimination of various loved and not loved services.  From the map service that predates Google to some spectacularly popular music services, lots of things have been removed from service, or are going to be removed from service.  Here’s a list of tech products that disappeared in 2015.

    A lot of these services I had no idea still existed.  Betamax, for example, was a surprise.  Others were surprises because they seemed pretty popular, like Rdio or Beats Music.  Not that I know anyone who used Beats Music, but I’m sure people did, and while the brand itself is going to live on in headphone form, the streaming services are drying up.  I guess that’s all part of industry consolidation, or just the fact that people are settled into their streaming services of choice, but still, someone’s going to be disappointed by that.

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    December 25, 2015
    Have A Patrick Swayze Christmas!

    Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and all that good stuff from all of us in the Shak family to all of you.  As always, I tend to favor an irreverent view of the holiday season, and like me, the boys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 have a great way to celebrate the holidays in a way that only fans of 80’s action movies will appreciate.  And that way, of course, is with a Patrick Swayze Christmas, courtesy of Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot.  (And also the AV Club.)

    YouTube Preview Image

    It’s been a very, very busy holiday season for me, so I’m looking forward to a return to normalcy sometime around January 12th or so.  Still, it’s nice to be buy, and it’s nice to actually have things to do at this time of year.  Not everyone is as lucky as I am.  I hope you all have a wonderful day celebrating in the way you choose, whether it’s with family or friends or movies or Chinese food or just watching a little more of the Today Show than you usually get to.

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    December 23, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Swayze Christmas

    Via The AV Club

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    December 21, 2015
    Russian Sues Bethesda Over Fallout 4 Addiction

    I really want to start playing Fallout 4.  I loved Fallout 1, 2, and 3, and while I haven’t played New Vegas, I would like to try it.  However, with the launch of the newest edition of the Fallout game, all I can think about is buying a new video game system or upgrading my laptop to play Fallout 4 in its full glory.  I don’t have the money, but the temptation is strong.  Apparently, for some people, it’s strong enough to ruin lives.  A 28-year-old Russian is suing Bethesda over Fallout 4, saying video game addiction ruined his life.

    The man, from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, says a three-week video game binge has ruined his health (due to not eating or sleeping), his social life (he has stopped seeing his friends), his marriage (his wife left him), and his professional life (he was fired for missing work).  He’s asking both Bethesda and the Russian-language localization firm for $7000 US or about 500,000 rubles in damages.  This is the first lawsuit of its kind in Russia, and is seen as kind of a test case for future lawsuits in Russia and beyond.

    “If I knew that this game could have become so addictive, I would have become a lot more wary of it.  I would not have bought it, or I would have left it until I was on holiday or until the New Year holidays,” reads a statement issued by the man about his life-ruining video game.

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    December 18, 2015
    Sony’s “Super Battery”

    I’ve done a lot of complaining about smart phone battery life lately, and it seems like everyone’s working to improve that sort of thing.  For example, Thursday, I was at a Star Wars movie marathon.  It started at 3 AM, and I got there at 1:30 AM to make sure I got the seat I wanted and to be prepared for a staggering 18 hours or so of Star Wars movie.  In order to make it through the whole thing, I had to turn my phone off between movies (and I wasn’t the only one, all of the neighbors we had around us did the same thing).

    Sony has a battery with 40% more capacity coming to market in 2020.  Unlike other cases, Sony is actually changing what goes inside batteries, adding sulfur into the mix to increase battery capacity without increasing battery size.  Magnesium and sulfur is what’s in one battery; the other battery is lithium and sulfur.  The sulfur apparently helps increase capacity by taking over for the positive terminal.  Fittingly, the first devices that will be fitted with the new batteries will be smartphones, which should surprise no one at this point.

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