Alan Buckingham

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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Sling brings Arabic language channels to customers


The world is increasingly a melting pot, with all countries containing citizens not native to them. This results in a plethora of languages being spoken and heard. To deal with this, countries carry an increasing number of foreign language channels to accommodate all people.

Now Sling TV, a new kind of "cable" service, is getting into the game, introducing a package of Arabic language channels for those people who may be feeling a bit out of place away from their home lands.

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Logitech releases new and interesting mouse line


There's no shortage of mice to choose from. Whether you want one for working, gaming, or using while traveling, finding a pointing device to suit your needs is pretty straightforward. But mice are usually practical and rarely fun. Logitech would like to change that.

The new Play Collection line brings a bit of color and whimsical feel to the desktop. There are multiple designs to choose from -- an owl, fox, lion and monkey. There are also a few other, calmer, options for the less bold.

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Amazon releases a new Kindle Paperwhite


It hasn't been terribly long since we saw new Kindles from Amazon, but that isn't slowing the company down. The svelte reading device is getting another update, this time it's the Paperwhite version getting the overhaul.

Amazon refers to the Paperwhite as "the most popular and best selling" version of its Kindle line, which is only slightly surprising, given that it's more expensive than the base model, which also works very nicely.

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Netflix overhauls the web interface, becomes more like an app

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Netflix has been busy with content, although the video service has somewhat been neglecting the website it maintains. But that's all changing now as the company unveils a complete revamping which it hopes customers will find much more useful.

This update promises a better user experience that "has been built from the ground up to make it faster and easier to discover something".

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Want to hook your PC to your TV? New Logitech keyboard can handle it


Logitech is no stranger to making a keyboard or mouse, nor is the company unfamiliar with the living room. Last year it released a home theater keyboard -- the Harmony Smart Keyboard. Now an updated version of the same concept is being announced, though this time without the Harmony name attached. This one is actually a successor to a previous model.

The Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus aims to help you control your living room via a computer hooked to the TV, in other words an HTPC. Logitech claims a wireless range of up to 33 feet for this device. There's also no mouse required, as the keyboard has a built-in touchpad. It also comes with batteries that Logitech claim will last 18 months.

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