Alan Buckingham

The technology I'm using this summer [Alan]

HP Chromebook 11

It seems all of us have made some switches thanks to warm weather here in the northern hemisphere, where summer is in full swing. Working outside seems prevalent, and that means, in many cases, an entirely different set of hardware.

I, for one, make my porch my office when the weather gets nice, and to do so means certain sacrifices -- or does it? As it turns out, not so much. I'm managing just fine with what I am using, able to get the job done with only the very rare exception that forces me to flee to my (rather baking) third-floor office to use a Windows computer.

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Go exploring with the new update to Google Maps


Summer is the vacation season for many people, and that means maps and travel apps become a priority. After all, when you're in an unfamiliar location, you're fending for yourself finding virtually anything, from museums to restaurants and everything else.

Now Google Maps is adding a new Explore feature that will attempt to assist lost travelers. A new "Explore" button will be located at the bottom right of the maps screen, and tapping on it will open a new world of information.

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Get an 8 port USB hub with the new PowerFlow Octofire


It seems that we all have way too many USB devices these days -- thumb drives, external hard drives, charging needs for phones and tablets. No computer has enough ports for the needs of a family, and many customers require help via a hub that can support all of those items.

"Most multi-gadget chargers have up to 4 ports that may only do one amp per port which is not optimal charging capacity. That’s why I was blown away when I first saw the Octofire with double the amount of ports and power", says Chris Johnson, Founder of BiteMyApple, the company that produces the product. "This monster charger is perfect for households or businesses that own many devices, and need a single power solution".

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Amazon unveils massive database expansion for Prime Music service


Just a few weeks ago, Amazon added one more perk to its Prime service, gifting customers with a music streaming service. The launch was a bit clumsy, as many of the songs and artists searched for were not available. However, as I wrote at the time, I expected that to improve.

Today the first leap forward takes place. The retailer is adding hundreds of thousands of new songs to the service, and also promising hundreds of new playlists.

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AVG killed LiveKive, but is offering a 'free' data transfer to SpiderOak

Cloud handshake collaboration

AVG got into the cloud storage business with its LiveKive offering. I won't go into the gory details but the service did not work so well. Now the anti-virus maker has elected to kill off the product, and perhaps it was a merciful death.

Users began receiving warning messages in their email before the shutdown took place. Customers could grab their data, though depending on how much was there, the download could have been painful.

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Chromebook shipments continue to rise, Acer leads the way

Acer C720 Chromebook

Google's Chromebooks have been making inroads as of late. Many schools have been adopting the platform, and there have even been stories of businesses moving over after the death of Windows XP. The latest numbers released show that this trend is continuing.

TrendForce reveals that shipments of Chrome OS devices have risen to 1.8 million in the second quarter of 2014, with Acer leading the way, ahead of all other OEMs.

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Hulu Plus brings a new user experience to Roku

Hulu Logo

Hulu is the big third player in the online video space, competing with Netflix and Amazon Prime. All of these services, and many more "channels" are part of the Roku ecosystem. It brings TV to the cord-cutter generation, which is a growing number of users.

Now, Roku is introducing an improved user experience to its tiny set-top boxes. "If you're a big Hulu streamer like me, you've likely noticed the new Hulu Plus experience on Roku. It’s quick to load, navigation within the channel is super snappy too -- 5x faster than the old channel! And the layout is slightly different to highlight stunning imagery from your favorite TV shows and movies", the manufacturer states.

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Libratone network speakers now boast Spotify Connect


Still procrastinating about installing a whole house audio system? The choices continue to grow, and one of the best known is Libratone, a Scandinavian company that brings a unique design to its networked speakers.

Now the manufacturer has paired with music streaming service Spotify, bringing the Connect functionality to the platform. This service provides customers with streaming options to speakers all around your home -- provided they are connected to your Wi-Fi network.

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Which entertainment device do you want in your living room? [Poll]

watching tv

Home entertainment has been in the news a lot lately. This past week Microsoft, which positioned its new Xbox One as an entertainment device just as much as it is a games console, announced it would be killing off its own entertainment studio. While that takes original content off the table, there are many choices still available, giving Xbox One owners plenty to watch.

With Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and the recently announced Android TV, viewing choices abound. What would once have been thought of as a computer, now resides in an entertainment center, sometimes in very small form factors -- Chromecast is nothing more than an HDMI stick that resembles a thumb drive. Roku, Google TV, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV are incredibly small boxes.

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Amazon unveils its first Fire Phone ad

Fire phone

It has taken a little while, a surprising amount actually, but Amazon has released the first TV ad for its new phone. The Fire Phone is the retailer's great hope to compete against the likes of iPhone and Android -- though it does technically run the latter OS. However, customers would be hard-pressed to know this, given the extensive customization made to the mobile platform.

The new video runs half a minute, the perfect length for a quick television spot. It features children using the device and saying the usual array of cute things to endear adults to them.

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BitTorrent looking for testers for mysterious new product

bittorrent logo

BitTorrent has been branching out over the past year, introducing new products such as Sync and Chat, both being encrypted and with a promise that user data is protected. Now the organization is looking to test a new product, but information is scant.

BitTorrent posted a short and mysterious blog post asking for testers to try out a new product, which it claims is for web browsers.

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Kindle Unlimited brings endless reading and listening to customers

Kindle Touch

Amazon already gives Prime customers access to a Kindle lending library, allowing the user to "borrow" books each month. But for some of the more voracious types, this may not provide enough material for a month's worth of entertainment.

For those customers, the retail giant has unveiled Kindle Unlimited, bringing all of the reading and listening needed to satisfy anyone, regardless of how fast he or she can read.

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Mozilla takes Firefox OS to new markets and devices, including India


Not to be outdone by Google's Android operating system, Mozilla wishes to push its own mobile platform out to customers. The organization is aiming mostly at the low-end market, but that will be expanding in the future.

The mobile platform initially debuted on just two devices, but Mozilla has managed to scare up a few more partners to produce its product.

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Grandfathered into the 25GB OneDrive plan? Microsoft has not reduced your storage


When Microsoft introduced SkyDrive, it provided every customer with 25GB of storage space for free. The company later reduced this to only 7GB, but existing users were grandfathered into their plans and allowed to retain the old amount of cloud space.

Now the company has quietly reduced that down to only 15GB -- sort of. No official announcement was made regarding this move -- users simply learn of it by checking available storage within their accounts. But all is not what it appears to be at first.

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Not a DirecTV subscriber? You can now get NFL Sunday Ticket (maybe)

DirecTV logo

It's hard to believe it's already that time, but NFL training camps begin opening over the next couple of weeks. It's also the time when, traditionally, DirecTV subscribers grab Sunday Ticket, as there are usually early-bird prices.

This year, though, you may just be able to snag a subscription to the Ticket, without being a customer of the satellite provider. Stipulations for this abound.

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