Alan Buckingham

Amazon announces Video Direct in an effort to compete with Google's YouTube

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Despite competition from the likes of Vimeo, YouTube has remained at the top of the heap for streaming videos, mostly because of content that comes from its users. While it's hard to see it being toppled anytime soon, it will have a new rival trying to do just that.

Amazon, which already runs its Prime Video service filled with TV shows and movies, is expanding its footprint, adding user content.

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Microsoft Cortana is helping the Portland Trail Blazers with sales

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When it comes to sports teams, marketing is everything. You have to sell tickets, merchandise and get the deals for TV coverage, though the latter is usually covered by a deal with the league. Now the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers is teaming up with Microsoft in an effort to obtain the data it needs to increase its revenue.

To accomplish that goal the team is turning big data and the power of the Cortana Intelligence Suite, Microsoft's digital assistant.

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Samsung has a SmartThings security problem, according to UM and Microsoft Research

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The Internet of Things, or IoT, has been both a blessing and a bain since it came into existence. Does convenience trump security concerns? That's the question each user has to ask his or herself. It's that security part that tends to make the news.

The latest to suffer a setback is Samsung SmartThings, with a new report claiming the platform has a security problem. The vulnerabilities reported are only hypothetical so far however.

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Online payment fraud set to grow over the next four years

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Fraud is nothing new on the internet. From phishing scams to ransomware, we've seen it all. However, the fastest growing part of this dark market seems to be online retail payment fraud. There's a lot of money to be made in this segment of the economy.

According to a new report, online retail fraud accounted for a whopping $10.7 billion in 2015, but, even worse, it's an up and coming thing. Juniper Research claims it could grow as high as $25.6 billion by the year 2020.

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Got home repairs? DIY is free this month on Sling TV

DIY

When things go wrong in your home, and they seem to do so at an alarming rate sometimes, then you can hire a repairman and suffer the charges for labor, or you can learn to fix it yourself for the cost of parts and your own sweat.

The question is, how do you learn these things? Well, the obvious answer is the internet, but that isn't always as hands-on as you may need. It helps to really see things being done, as opposed to following what amounts to a user manual.

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Fitbit's Aria internet-connected scale can be hacked

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These days more and more items around our homes are connected to the internet. In theory, this sounds like a great idea, and it can be -- providing it is implemented correctly, meaning in a secure way. In practice, however, that isn't always the case. We've seen endless stories of what can go wrong, even Barbie dolls turned bad.

Scales are probably one of the last things you'd expect to be connected. Actually, though, that innovation came several years ago with a scale that tweeted your weight -- a great way of shaming you into continuing that diet and exercise program.

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Hacker creates reality TV with users' webcams

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The webcam debuted long ago and has become integrated into many computer systems. People use it for any number of things, and products like Skype utilize this functionality. But the innovation has a darker side. It turns out this little add-on can be hacked, allowing the perpetrator to view the user.

A hacker in Russia took this to a higher level by not only accessing people's cameras, but broadcasting the video online, right on YouTube.

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Ira Glass arrives on Pandora as This American Life is released on the streaming platform

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You may well have heard the popular radio show This American Life. It's broadcast out of Chicago, but syndicated around the US, and perhaps has an even greater footprint thanks to its podcast. Host Ira Glass has taken his idea for a little show and turned it into a force in media.

Despite the name, the shows are very much international, though they usually involve Americans, even in foreign locations. Glass also covers all sorts of incidents from the financial crisis to crimes. Now the long-running show is coming to Pandora, a platform known for its music streaming system.

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Amazon Prime Music debuts on Sonos systems in the UK

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Amazon Prime has become hugely popular, and it's easy to see why. For $99 per year, customers get free two-day shipping, streaming video, streaming music and Kindle lending library. Sonos is less adopted because of the price, but if you've invested in it then you have a great whole-house audio system.

Six months ago, the two came together in the US to add to your musical enjoyment and today Amazon Prime Music will be debuting on Sonos in the UK and filling British homes with tunes.

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Dell teams with Microsoft and others to launch IoT Partner Solutions Program

Internet of things

Yes, the Internet of Things, commonly called the IoT, has been steadily growing and increasingly hard to ignore. It's not all bad, though. In fact, it's great when it works and when it isn't being hacked. Security is obviously the number one concern. Nobody wants a hacker turning off lights, or worse.

Now Dell is teaming up with a number of companies for what it calls its "IoT Partner Solutions Program". Those involved, at least initially, are GE, Microsoft, OSIsoft, PTC, SAP and Software AG.

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

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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

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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?

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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

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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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