Alan Buckingham

Is Google Now creepy or cool?

business man spying

The other day my colleague Brian Fagioli posted a story about Cortana advancements for the Windows Phone crowd. It got me thinking because he stated that "quite frankly, Google Now is so good at learning about you, that at first, it can seem a bit creepy". He isn't far off the mark, as it is creepy, but it works. And it works to an almost scarily good degree, when it comes to figuring its user out. TV? Travel? Packages ordered? It will have you covered. But is all of this a good or bad thing?

The answer will depend on the person, as I know the privacy advocates will chime in and disagree with my assessment. Am I worried about this invasion to my personal life? The answer is a resounding NO. Google Now alerts me to all sorts of events, some are just useful, some are things I'd likely have forgot without the help of the search giant.

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Xbox One set to go on sale for the holidays, bundles included


Microsoft has struggled a bit recently with Xbox One sales, at least in comparison to rival Sony's PS4, though strides are being made. So what to do to combat this problem? For starters the company recently began selling a cheaper model that comes without the Kinect. But things will heat up even more this holiday shopping season, which is fast approaching.

Beginning November 2nd, the Xbox One will be available for $349 -- $50 off the regular non-Kinect price. That price will only be available in the US. And it's not the only discounted offer coming to the gaming platform next month.

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Cambridge Audio Bluetone 100 -- not your average Bluetooth speaker [Review]


As Bluetooth speakers go, most tend to be small devices, easily transportable and charged via a micro USB port. That is largely what has made the peripherals popular -- portability and convenience. But there are manufacturers that take these things a bit more seriously.

Cambridge Audio aims to change perceptions of Bluetooth speakers, turning those small portable gadgets into something that is more home theater gear. One of its offerings is called the Bluetone 100 and, though it doesn't come cheap, it may satisfy the audiophiles out there by offering a bit more than average.

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Amazon rolling out Fire OS 4.1.1 to its tablets


Amazon recently released a new line of Kindle products, featuring two new tablets and readers respectively. With the release came an update to the retailer's version of Android, known as Fire OS. It's a highly customized take on Google's mobile platform -- almost unrecognizable, in fact.

Now Amazon is rolling out an update to it, bringing the system to version 4.1.1. The update doesn't seem to have hit the 2013 models yet, but those with the latest tablet should be seeing it now, or at least very soon.

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Forget Facebook, Microsoft now has a 'share with Yammer' button


Okay, that may be a bit over the top. I doubt most users will be forgetting Facebook anytime soon, but it isn't the only social network. Don't forget Microsoft owns Yammer, which is geared more towards business than personal use. That doesn't mean it should be left out of the equation though.

In an effort to cash in on the social sharing craze, Microsoft is bringing Yammer to web sites. Yes, the business network will be included with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the rest of the set, allowing users to share stories.

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Microsoft's Satya Nadella: 'We've always had freemium. Sometimes our freemium was called piracy'

Satya Nadella, Microsoft. 2014-01

Microsoft is committed to the cloud. CEO Satya Nadella is starting to hit his stride and his vision is coming into focus. The new leader seems to see the future in OneDrive and he isn't shy about explaining his reasoning.

In a lengthy interview with CNBC's Jon Fortt, Nadella tackled the concepts and ideas he has for the company. In discussing OneDrive, the CEO made it clear that the product would remain free to everyone. The model involves monetizing for those who need more than what is offered for the price of zero.

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XCom takes advantage of Marriott's Wi-Fi debacle, issues security alert

Hotel wi-fi business

If you happened to miss it, then some background information is in order. The Marriott hotel chain, or actually one branch of it, was caught red-handed blocking Wi-Fi hotspots that its guests brought along on their trip. The hotel giant claimed security reasons, but people didn't buy the excuse. More importantly, the FCC didn't bite on it either.

It seems the Gaylord Opryland Hotel would have preferred customers to pay the exorbitant rates it charges for internet access. The Federal Communications Commission saw things differently and slapped the hotel with a $600,000 fine.

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Spotify provides music for the whole family with one plan


The music streaming business continues to grow and actually buying tracks seems to be heading for the distant memory pile. Spotify is one of the top competitors in this growing industry. The competition forces each business to differentiate itself and today Spotify does that.

The streaming service is announcing a new Family Plan. This option brings tunes to up to four people, all under one monthly bill. Each of the people on the account will be able to keep their playlists, history and recommendations completely separate.

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Cable providers should now panic -- cutting the cord is getting easier all the time


Cord cutters are not new, they've been around for years now. Various reasons lead to this decision -- ranging from a simple lack of interest in programming to a desire to get TV shows and movies through other means. Over-the-air (OTA) has always been possible, and some go that route, but a growing number of services have sprung up to fill the gap left behind when cable and satellite service is cancelled.

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon all provided options for movies and TV shows, and now each has spread its wings and moved into the realm of producing original content. That is likely the time when cable providers should have moved into panic mode.

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Snapchat talks API, warns about a hacked third-party app

Breakup Smartphones

Snapchat has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity. But for software and apps popularity also means becoming a bigger target. There's been no shortage of news recently regarding systems being breached, with Kmart being the most recent victim.

In this case the victim isn't Snapchat, at least not directly, but a third-party app that uses the chat service's API. While the company is happy that so many want to use its API, it felt forced to issue a warning to the folks who decide to use these apps.

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TVMC simplifies XBMC for Android users, brings media to your mobile


XBMC, which is now transferring to a new name of Kodi, to leave its old life being Xbox Media Center, has morphed into a top-notch option for HTPC and media buffs. But setting the service up has never been the simplest process, and it's been relegated to the more advanced users out there.

Now TV Addons has released TVMC for Android to simplify the setup process. Yes, XBMC runs on mobile devices as well as every computer platform.

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Things heat up as IFTTT teams with Honeywell for new evohome thermostat technology


If This Then That, better know as IFTTT, is a system for customizing what happens with various devices. Pretty much anything you can dream up can be programmed in, and the service has moved now into the home automation field.

The company is announcing integration with Honeywell's new thermostat. The evohome systems now have a custom channel, bringing even more to the growing Internet of Things offerings from IFTTT. This brings the total products up by one more.

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Cut the cord -- HBO will offer standalone streaming service in 2015

Satisfied Happy Businessman Relaxing Office

Cable providers see the writing on the wall. They will eventually become internet services and nothing more, but for now each is fighting this future. The battle took a turn against those TV services recently. HBO has dealt the latest blow.

For the moment, the HBO app requires the user to verify a subscription by adding information for a cable or satellite provider. That's bad for cord-cutters -- it means they simply can't get the HBO service. However, that requirement will be changing in 2015.

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Popcorn Time fights back -- moves domain after takedown


There's no accounting for what will happen if you run a website, especially a questionable one. We've all witnessed the trials and tribulations suffered by the folks behind the Pirate Bay. Others have been more fortunate, though the outcome for the site has been the same -- a takedown. Some give up, while others move on and fight to survive.

Popcorn Time falls into that latter category. The company has so far thwarted efforts to remove it from the internet, but recently faced yet another hurdle. The site's domain name was taken down -- a common problem to the folks at the Pirate Bay. No problem, just get a new one. Move along, nothing to see here.

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Verizon Fios soars to the top of Netflix monthly ISP report

TV cat Netflix

Each and every month video provider Netflix issues a report on ISPs and makes no bones about who's good and who isn't. Honestly, the company has no choice -- its business rides on these speeds and it is not shy about reporting them.

September has been released, and there are some surprises and some not shocking disappointments. First, Verizon Fios flew to the top, averaging 3.17 MB per download. Not bad at all for the customers out there.

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