Alan Buckingham

NSA's XKeyscore may be collecting your Skype, webcam and router data

Spying

The NSA's covert data collection has become the worst kept secret in the world. Edward Snowden blew the lid off the program and has released many documents providing validity to what he has said. While he continues to harbor in Russia, the US is split over whether he is a traitor or hero. Whistle blowers certainly aren't new -- they date back many years and include the famous Deepthroat who revealed Watergate.

Now more information has come to light in the form of XKeyscore, a program designed to glean data from user's router, webcam and Skype calls. It's just as scary as it sounds.

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Amazon announces Prime Day, claims more sales than Black Friday

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Think you got some good deals and a lot to choose from on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Amazon now wishes to top that with an even better event -- Prime Day. The retailer is looking to roll out deals to its most valued customers, those who subscribe to Prime for the good deals, free shipping, and more.

The deal is in celebration of Amazon's 20th birthday, which occurs next week. The sales will be available to customers in the US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Austria.

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Time to reset your password as Plex forums get hacked

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The internet can be a scary place, as sites and services get breached on a regular basis. However, it's also become an integral part of life for many people. That's why constant vigilance is in order to try and maintain a level of safety.

The latest victim is Plex, the media server and client, that many home theater enthusiasts use. If you just have a standard account then you should be safe, But, if you signed up for the forums, then you'll need to pay attention. Plex is notifying users to change their passwords.

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Rdio shoots to thrill as AC/DC rocks onto the service

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Many may argue that they don't make bands like AC/DC anymore, and perhaps they'd be right. The Australian group shaped the youths of many of us with their hard sound and clever lyrics. Nobody will forget original singer Bon Scott or replacement Brian Johnson who raised the band from its ashes after the tragedy of Scott's death.

But now you can hop onto the Highway to Hell and take a ride using Rdio, the music streaming service that aims to compete in this market with many formidable rivals. The music site has announced the whole epic catalog is available to its users.

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It's not just you, Sling TV is down

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I plopped onto my sofa tonight to watch a show using Sling TV. I love the service, despite it being a bit pricey. The one time I've called I got quick and courteous customer service. Tonight was different -- the service told me there was a problem with the login. I called and received endless messages that there were "higher than normal call volumes".

The sense that something was up popped into my head. Indeed it was, as the eventual customer service rep informed me that there was a big problem.

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Microsoft brings the Quran to a wider audience

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The Quran, sometimes written Koran, is the holy text of the Islamic religion. It literally translates to "the recitation". Most religions have such books to guide their beliefs and provide some foundation for how to proceed in life.

You can read many such works online, and Microsoft is aiding in this with Islam 360, a searchable Quran app. The software giant has talked it up, though it isn't particularly new. Instead Microsoft wants to alert those who aren't aware of its existence and tout the features it brings along.

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Will you or won't you? The state of cord-cutting in 2015

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We last looked at the cord-cutting revolution in early 2014 and asked who planned to do so in the coming year. A surprising number of you said you'd already done it. What has happened since then that will make those who haven't switched do so now? A couple of interesting developments have happened in this time.

Before we get to those, we'll pose the question one more time. Will you, or for that matter have you, cut the cord? If you have no plans to, then why? There are obviously many possible answers to these questions and many good reasons both for and against the change in your entertainment options.

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OneDrive adds Chromecast support to its Android app

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Since debuting Chromecast has continued to gain wider support, with new services being added regularly. Now Microsoft, which has a history of supporting Android with apps and updates, is getting in a bit deeper.

The company has added support for Chromecast in it's latest update. Version 3.2 of the app allows customers to "cast" photos and videos right from their phone or tablet and display them on the big screen.

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Java installer is making changes, but don't get excited just yet

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Security problems aside, Java has been a thorn in people's sides for other reasons. When installed or updated, the app breezes you right past the part where it installs the Ask Toolbar. Sure it does put it on the screen, but it's set to opt in and many people are too busy clicking OK to notice. So when Ask's inclusion was canceled it seemed like good news.

Not really. Instead, Oracle has opted to move on and will now start changing the default search for its customers. If you aren't careful, then you can expect to find Yahoo as your new default. Are you excited yet?

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Office 365 gets one-click access to apps

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Office 365 debuted with the last release of the software, bringing the service to what Microsoft has always likely wanted -- a subscription. It's a decent deal with five licenses and the ability to move them to new computers.

Now the software giant is rolling out one-click app access in its Office 365 store. The company is trying to make things as simple as possible, by adding the store and deployment without admin support. No configuration or admin support? That sounds like an IT nightmare, but hopefully Microsoft is vetting everything before it goes live.

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Google Street view takes you to the heights of El Capitan's rock wall

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If you've ever rock climbed then chances are you know El Capitan. It is the quintessential big wall -- the icon of the sport. Every climber aspires to one day visit Yosemite and tackle the multi-pitch ascent. There are lots of 5.14 climbs around, but there is something about the allure of a big wall.

Can't make it to California? You aren't alone, there are too many locations for any climber to get to in a lifetime. However, Yosemite is the icon, the Smith Rocks of big walls. You can speed climb it or use a hanging bivouac (don't roll over in the night).

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Amazon adds High Dynamic Range video for Prime members

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Today's video is getting a bit confusing. There's Ultra HD (4k) and High Dynamic Range, which differs somewhat from HDR pictures of the same name. Essentially, though, they do the same thing in the end, enhancing contrast and deepening shadows, while claiming a richer color that aims to be more pleasing for the viewer.

Now Amazon is bringing this technology to Prime customers with a new update. For the moment though, it's only one show, but Amazon plans to add more.

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TuneIn brings another music option to Xbox One owners

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Microsoft's Xbox One gaming console does much more than just play games, there are many entertainment options. It aims to be the hub of the consumer's living room, with all sorts of choices and even HDMI pass-thru. Now music streaming service TuneIn is adding one more option to the mix.

TuneIn bills itself as "the world's largest collection of radio stations". This is more than just music, though. It's also stations that deliver news, sports, talk radio and podcasts. It's enough to cover just about any eclectic taste.

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Amazon finally releases the long-awaited Echo

Amazon Echo

Amazon announced the Echo a few months ago, but it's been a long time coming. The Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled speaker sits in your home and answers your questions or commands. It does so simply upon voice activation, and it answers with its own vocal rendering.

Well, the device is finally coming to market, as Amazon announces the ability to order for all customers. It does a lot more than answer your questions, though. There's home automation, music and many other features it can control.

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Amazon snubs XBMC Kodi while Google Play embraces it

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If you haven't heard the news, the program formerly known as XBMC, or Xbox Media Center, is now Kodi. The name change reflects the change in direction that the software has taken as it has evolved. It now does much more than it ever intended and runs on just about every platform.

Unless you have a Kindle Fire. Despite that the tablets run Android, it's very different -- the version is highly customized to fit the Amazon ecosystem, locking customers into the Amazon App Store and getting rid of Google Play. This generally is OK, most apps folks want are in both places.

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