Alan Buckingham

Microsoft makes Skype free for Ecuador earthquake victims, Canon donates money to Japan


In the past week the world has suffered several earthquakes, striking firstly in Japan and then in Ecuador. Both were followed by aftershocks that still continue and each robbed the world of lives. It's a tragedy with broad repercussions, as family members from around the world seek word on their loved ones.

Microsoft immediately jumped in to offer free Skype calls to Japan and now the software giant is doing the same for those with family in Ecuador.

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Can you hear me now? 36,000 Verizon workers go on strike


Is your phone working? The reason I ask is this morning at 6am EDT 36,000 Verizon workers walked off the job in protest of outsourcing of work to countries such the Philippines, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The carrier is closing call centers in favor of overseas help. The union also makes accusations of sending workers out of state for extended periods of time.

"Verizon's corporate greed isn't just harming workers' families, it's hurting customers as well," the CWA (Communications Workers of America) says in a statement to CNN.

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The Internet of Things in 2016 -- where is it headed and what are your plans?

Home automation 1

The Internet of Things, more commonly known as IoT and sometimes referred to as a Connected Home or as Home Automation, is one of the biggest trends in technology these days and 2016 doesn't seem to be slowing down as new products continue to pour onto the market while others get updates and increasingly become compatible across platforms.

Product lines abound, from door locks to shades and from lights to crock pots. Manufacturers like Samsung, Insteon, Cree, GE, Nest, Wink, Sensi, Ecobee and many more are out there waiting for your hard earned money.

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Get your Indian Premier League cricket with an ESPN Pass on Roku


It may not be big in the United States, but cricket equates to baseball in other parts of the world -- a sport with huge crowds and a somewhat similar method of play. The sport is very big in India and the Premier League is what the people want to watch.

Now Roku can bring all of the action to you with ESPN Cricket Pass. The set-top box maker brags that it is the only connected device offering this option for the 2016 season.

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It's lights out as Nest shuts down Revolv

Not connected

There have been occasional complaints with the IoT. Things don't always work as planned – lights that fail to come on or go off, a door that won't unlock and other minor annoyances. A bigger concern has been security, as these systems continue to display vulnerability. But, what if a device just suddenly stops working, and not through mechanical error, but because the company just chose to reach into your home and kill it?

Well, that's exactly what's about to happen with Revolv, an IoT hub that was purchased by Nest, which in turn is owned by Google. Officially, Revolv is considered a Nest company, though.

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SmartThings brings new Belkin WeMo devices to the UK family, certifies Harmony


There's no shortage of connected devices on the market these days and more seem to come along almost daily. The problem, to an extent, is interoperability. That's improving somewhat as devices are starting to play nice with other systems.

Now SmartThings, one of the more popular offerings on the market, is introducing new products to its UK line. Both are from Belkin, which makes the WeMo line.

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Mozilla brings better security to Firefox for iOS


Security has been in the news since Edward Snowden; before actually, just not as prominently. Now, in recent weeks, the headlines have focused on Apple over its iPhone dispute with the FBI, a saga that seems to have come to an end recently.

That is not, however, the only security that needs to be part of our daily lives. Web browsers represent yet another problem and most are working to add layers of protection for customers.

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TCL announces 4K Roku TV models


With the release of the Roku 4, 4K arrived on the tiny set-top boxes. The company has also announced partnerships with set makers to create smart TVs using the Roku platform to power them. The new standard isn't prevalent, but it's coming around as more and more content becomes available.

This partnership was announced back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Now it is coming to fruition, six new models are set to begin shipping.

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Microsoft releases more details on its Edge Translator extension

Windows-10 key

Last week Microsoft finally revealed extensions for its Edge web browser for Windows 10. It began with just a handful of add-ons, but more are on the way. We previously told you how to install them, including the translator, but now Microsoft is adding a bit more information.

The new Edge extensions are currently considered previews and are only available to Windows 10 Insiders, and you'll need Build 14291 to use them.

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Your older Amazon Kindle may lose connectivity today, but there's an update


The Amazon Kindle has been around since 2007, and plenty of updates have been made to both hardware software during the years since it was released. If you have an older model then it still works just fine and, while Amazon would almost certainly like to sell you a new one, the company is still content to sell you books for older models.

All models released prior to 2013 are now at risk of losing internet connectivity and the company is notifying customers still utilizing those devices.

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Braven BVR-XXL hopes to bring rugged design coupled with big sound


I know what you're thinking, "another Bluetooth speaker". Yes, there is a flood of them on the market. We've had our fair share pass through the BetaNews office and most are comparable and a few even stood out for one reason or another.

Now Braven is announcing its latest offering. It's a name that's no stranger to us, we've reviewed previous models. This one is a bit different though.

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Clinton's email continues to make news, this time with Google


It's hard to turn on the news these days without seeing something about Syria and its leader Bashar Assad. The nation has been in disarray for sometime now as rebels try to overthrow the dictator, while ISIS controls some of the country.

While Russia has tried to fight back the rebels with air strikes in an effort to prop up Assad, the US has been more interested in striking Islamic Nation targets, and the one thing seemingly forgotten are the citizens of this war torn nation, who are attempting to flee in boatloads -- literally, making a treacherous journey across the sea to Turkey and Greece.

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Amazon Echo meets Automatic, attempts to make your car smarter

Amazon Echo

It seems every product hitting the market these days is touted to be smart, with the catch-phrase Internet of Things being thrown around everywhere. While there have been security issues in this new product line, there are also some really cool things available, and it captures the imagination.

Alexa, the persona behind Amazon Echo, is one way to enter the market, though you need to add devices to pair with it. Lights, door locks, thermostats, there's no shortage of items to choose from and it's growing all the time.

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Fitbit comes to Amazon Echo, Alexa can now track your activity

Amazon Echo

It seems as though there is a constant flow of new features and capabilities arriving on Amazon's voice-enabled platform Echo. You can play Jeopardy, listen to music and podcasts, even control your lights and thermostat.

Now the system is partnering up with Fitbit to allow Alexa to tell you about your activity. There is a new series of questions that you simply ask the device and get your answers.

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Nest beefs up its Android Wear app with new features


We've talked plenty about Nest around here. The company makes a smart thermostat and other devices that hope to improve your home and your life. Whether they succeed or not is individual opinion. However, a thermostat that can detect your location and adjust the temperature accordingly can certainly be a money saver.

You can control things right from the app on your smartphone, and do so from anywhere in the world. But what about your wrist? Well, Nest has an app for that and now it's gaining some new features.

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