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    April 11, 2016
    Amazon’s Kindle Oasis

    kindle-oasis_2

    There’s nothing better than having the hottest new piece of technology in your hand.  I mean, who doesn’t love being on the cutting edge, provided that edge isn’t sharp enough to cut you?  Companies are all trying to be lighter, thinner, larger, brighter, and with more battery life, and it looks like Amazon is taking this plan to heart with their newly-announced Kindle Oasis.  Granted, they haven’t released it yet, but the design specs have already been leaked.  Here’s what the leaked Kindle Oasis looks like.

    The thing I like most about the Kindle Oasis is just how small it is.  It’s the lightest Kindle offering by far, 27 percent lighter than the Kindle Voyage and 36 percent lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite.  It’s so small and light it can be held with only one hand, which would make reading in bed a whole lot easier for back sleepers.  There’s an accelerometer in that determines if the book is being held in the left or right hand, and to make sure it’s oriented appropriately.

    That bump you see above?  That’s where your hand grip is supposed to be.  That just might be easier to use than an actual paperback book, even if it doesn’t have the promised solar power case yet.  However, the current case does support a second external battery, which should help keep things juiced up while on the go.

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    April 8, 2016
    Netflix Bumps Prices Upward

    The price of streaming just went up.  By two whole dollars, or about a 25 percent price hike.  Netflix will be raising prices for long-time users from $7.99 to $9.99 per month.  The price hikes will begin in May and Netflix says they will notify all affected users by email to give them a much-needed warning.

    However, if you’re not interested in paying more for Netflix, then you may not have to.  The $10 plan includes two HD streaming feeds at once.  The $8 plan will remain, but those users will be losing their access to HD content in exchange for saving a few dollars a month.

    Honestly, I don’t use Netflix as often as I used to, or as often as I should.  I don’t have much time to stream these days, as much as I wish I did.  Still, I like knowing that Netflix is there, and I intend on watching a lot of their original content when I get time to go on a serious binge.  At $8 or $10, that’s still a tough price to beat for unlimited entertainment.  Even if you just watch one or two shows that Netflix offers, it’s still cheaper than Hulu, HBO Go, or any of the other streaming services.

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    April 7, 2016
    Turn Your Office Into A Coffee Shop

    hipstersound

    I love to work from home. If I could work from home every day, I’d set up a comfortable office space and never leave.  However, I went to public school, so I’m used to a lot of background noise.  Sometimes the TV works.  Sometimes it’s music or podcasts through my headphones.  However, it’s not the same as tucking into a booth at the local coffee shop and getting my work done there.  Enter Hipster Sound.

    Hipster Sound is an ambient noise generator that recreates hipster environments, like coffee shops and piano bars.  I would love it if I could replace the sound of churning printers and fax machine beeping with the sounds of brewing coffee and mellow indie rock.  If it could somehow come with the smell of freshly-brewed coffee rather than, say, spilled toner ink or fish being microwaved, so much the better.

    Unfortunately, it only works via the ears, and there’s no way to recreate the smell of a beach-side lounge quite yet, but it’s a good start.  I intend on trying this out at work tomorrow, and I recommend you do the same.  White noise helps us sleep, keeps us calm, and is generally very soothing; maybe the sound of a quiet coffee shop can help eliminate the difficulty of a work day.

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    April 6, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: Mars Rover, Mars Rover

    mars-rover

    Via PC World

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    April 5, 2016
    Nest Shutters Revolv Home Hub

    revolv_nest

    When I was looking to buy a new furnace for my house, one of the choices I had to make was with my thermostat.  Did I want a simple dial to turn?  Did I want four settings, eight settings, or some other group of settings?  Did I want to splurge on a smart thermostat?  Honestly, I considered it, but I didn’t go with a smart thermostat for one simple reason: you’re dependent on the company to keep your thermostat functional.  Nest is shutting off the servers that power the Revolv Home Hub, leaving those users without a working thermostat.

    Of course, Nest purchased Revolv in 2014, and it immediately took Revolv’s products off the market, and users were warned in February that their thermostats were going to go offline in April, but still, that’s a pretty bad time of the year to turn off people’s heat.  After all, there’s still snow on the ground and there’s plenty of cold weather yet to come, and while a warning is nice, that’s still a $300 thermostat that someone’s going to have to replace.

    Nest’s products have been online since 2011, but that’s no guarantee they’ll still be online in 2017 or beyond.  Yes, Next is now owned by Alphabet and has Google’s money behind it, but services can go away at any point.  Then you’re stuck with a smart thermostat without any smarts.

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    April 4, 2016
    PlayStation Employee Builds Custom Controller For Special Gamer

    sony-ps4-controller

    Peter Byrne is a man from New Jersey who has cerebral palsy.  Despite the debilitating medical condition, he hasn’t stopped enjoying one of his favorite hobbies:  playing video games.  However, he was having an issue with his game constantly being paused accidentally due to the placement of the pause button and his left hand.  He would accidentally hit the touchpad and pause the game, which as anyone can tell you, is super annoying.  Fortunately, a kind PlayStation employee built a custom PS4 controller for him.

    The amazing thing isn’t that Alex Nawabi built the PS4 controller on his own time, but that it’s not even part of his job.  He’s in the retail marketing division, but he was able to take some controllers apart and put together something that would work for Peter’s special needs.  It’s all part of PlayStation’s plan to make their games as approachable as possible.

    “I honestly got choked up reading the letter as I did not expect anything like this to happen,” Peter added in his Facebook message. “Mr. Nawabi really cared about my situation and did this on his own time to make my experience better. I honestly can’t thank him enough for everything he did for me. Thank you Mr. Nawabi it really means a lot too me!”

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    March 31, 2016
    FCC Offers Subsidies For Internet Service

    The Internet isn’t an option these days.  You need Internet for pretty much everything, from paying bills to applying for jobs, but if you’re one of the 40 million Americans on Medicare, food stamps, or other federal assistance, sometimes paying for online access comes at the cost of food.  Some 13 million of these Americans on assistance don’t have Internet access.  Fortunately, the FCC is going to make things a little easier.  The FCC is going to offer Americans on assistance an Internet subsidy.

    The subsidy won’t pay for everything.  It’s only $9.25 a month.  However, that can help add data access to an existing phone line, or help make paying the Internet access bill a little bit easier for the working poor.  When you’re stretching every dollar, an extra $9.25 can be really helpful.  The service, called Lifeline, is an expansion of a Reagan-era subsidy program that already helps with the cost of home phones.

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    March 30, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: 19th Century Sport, 21st Century Tech

    royals-coach-rusty-kuntz-uses-an-ipad-prior-to-game-3-of-last-years-american-league-championship-series.-100653327-large

    Image:  MacWorld

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    March 29, 2016
    Google Wants Your Land Line Phone

    Google is doing a great job of expanding its offerings.  Google Fiber is growing every day, and Google’s television networks and the like are value added on top of the Google Fiber cherry.  However, there’s one place where the Google is lagging behind, and that’s land-line phones.  Yes, they’re still a thing, and lots of people still have them.  Now Google is going to make them happen, too.  Google is going to take your land-line phone to the cloud.

    Google Fiber Phone is basically a Google Fiber addition for $10 a month.  Google Fiber Phone is basically a cloud-based phone that can be accessed from any device you have, from your mobile phone to tablets and, yes, the home phone.  It has unlimited local and national calling, E-911 service, and similar rates as Google Voice for long distance calls.

    “While mobile phones have pushed us toward the future, home phone service is still important to many families,” writes Google Fiber product manager John Shriver-Blake.  “Landlines can be familiar, reliable and provide high-quality service, but the technology hasn’t always kept up.”

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    March 28, 2016
    iOS 9.3 Update Makes Hyperlinks Crash Your Phone

    If you updated to iOS 9.3, hopefully you’re not having any issues.  However, if you’re one of the unlucky ones that gets hit by every bug in Apple’s software, you have my sympathies.  A glitch in iOS 9.3 makes iPhones crash when people click on hyperlinks.  To make matters worse, iOS 9.2 also suffers from the same glitch, assuming users installed a recent security update.

    “I’m trying to remember the number of times I’ve told folks not to immediately upgrade to the new release,” said a user on the Apple Support Forum with the handle ‘nameisunique.’  “Should have been a little more suspect of a new release that’s timed with a somewhat big announcement by Apple.”

    There’s a good reason to never download updates on the first day, or even the first month.  Wait, patiently, until the bugs are ironed out, then do your upgrading. It’s a great way to avoid these kind of problems, and it’s also a good way to make sure all your favorite apps, games, and other phone fun things are able to work on the new OS upgrade.  Time is on your side.

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