Alan Buckingham

Spotify arrives on Amazon Fire TV, requires Premium subscription

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Amazon continues to grow the ecosystem for its set-top box, the Fire TV. While its portfolio of offerings hasn't yet reached Roku level, the platform is much newer and still getting its legs under it. Today it expands a bit more with the addition of Spotify.

The music steaming service launched today on the Amazon box, though it does require users to have a Premium subscription, which will set you back a few dollars per month.

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Microsoft buys Minecraft, reasons are uncertain

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There's no denying Minecraft is a wildly popular game that many people, both old and young, enjoy. It's also multi-platform, making it extremely profitable and available to many customers. Perhaps that's why Microsoft has announced it has purchased the franchise.

It's hard to say the motive behind this move -- the game does run on Xbox and Windows, of course -- but how does the software giant hope to recoup the money? After all, $2.5 billion is an awful lot to recover from.

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Dropbox lets users know about government activity regarding their data

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We've grown accustomed to "transparency" reports in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. We all now realize we are being watched and listened to, and that tech companies like Google and Microsoft, complicit or not, have given up user data, though the latter is currently fighting a court order to do so.

"Over the past year, revelations about government surveillance have shown that we need more transparency into when and how government agencies get access to people’s information online", states Bart Volkmer of Dropbox.

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Netflix website gets a makeover with new search interface

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Streaming media service Netflix is upping its game these days. Despite its woes with broadband providers, and the added expenses these have provided, the company continues to move forward on the innovation front. This time it’s the website getting an update.

The company has announced a new search experience, bringing what it hopes will be faster results and easier access to what you wish to watch.

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SmartCharge bulb: See the light, even when the power is out [Review]

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Earlier this year a Kickstarter project I found fascinating came around. Living in an area that experiences severe thunderstorms in summer and the occasional blizzard in winter, I'm no stranger to losing power at times, which can be annoying for anyone.

With this in mind, I bit the bullet and backed the SmartCharge product. I'm not accustomed to paying $35 for a single lightbulb, but the idea was ingenious. Essentially the bulb has a battery inside which keeps itself charged whenever the power is on. When that source no longer exists the bulb switches to battery backup and continues to operate when the switch is turned on.

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Nest grows its home automation integration, Dropcam now in use

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Home automation and the Internet of Things have become popular topics today. Users either love it or fear it, the latter thanks to very real security problems which have been discovered. Nest is no stranger to problems, thanks to its Protect issue from not long ago, but that hasn't stopped the company from moving forward, adding further integration.

The latest move is to partner with more home automation products in an effort to make everything play nicely together. The company, known for its smart thermostat, has joined forces with Whirlpool, Jawbone and LIFX under a program it calls "Works with Nest". It has also been working with home automation makers to get better integration.

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Google Street View visits Egypt, tours pyramids and more

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The Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, there's a lot to see in Egypt. However, it may not be a place you wish to travel to right at this moment, though there are no official warnings against it from the State Department. Fortunately you don't need to make the trip now, thanks to Google.

Street View, the ever-growing portfolio of images from the Google Maps team, has visited the North African nation and captured the sites in great detail. Included are all of the things that drive tourists to this location -- Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, ancient burial grounds and more.

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Netflix posts its state of US and Canadian broadband in latest ISP report

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Each month Netflix releases its "shame and blame" report, which covers the major US and Canadian ISP services. The streaming service is not kind, as it revealed problems on Comcast before giving in to demands to pay a fee to appease customers having issues.

The latest report has been issued and Comcast has risen in the ranking to a rather reasonable fourth place. However, the provider still lags behind rivals Cablevision, Cox and Suddenlink. But, it ranks above Verizon FiOS, Charter, AT&T and others. Verizon DSL finishes dead last, but that isn't a major surprise.

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TiVo shows off monster 24 TB Mega DVR, you'll never miss another show

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One problem with DVRs is storage -- if you save too many programs you'll find things being deleted to make room for new recordings. Most DVRs land in the 500 GB range, but some are now coming with one terabyte. Things are slowly improving, but now they will be taking a quantum leap thanks to TiVo.

How about a 24 terabyte monster for your TV show storage needs? That works out to about 26,000 hours of stored TV shows (that's SD, HD reduces things to a mere 4,000 hours), which should be enough for even the biggest couch potato. It is, not surprisingly, named the TiVo Mega and will be whole-home capable.

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Spotify plans new video ads for its 30 million customers

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Customers can opt to subscribe to music streaming service Spotify, but many elect for the free version which is ad supported. Now those ads will get a bit more visible as "Spotify for Brands" takes shape with new offerings being introduced.

The new service comes in two versions called Sponsored Sessions and Video Takeover. This isn't quite as intrusive as it may sound at first. In fact, there is actually some benefit to the users. "Spotify Free users can opt in to watch a brand-sponsored video spot (aka a Sponsored Session) in exchange for 30 minutes of uninterrupted music", explains Spotify's Candice Katz.

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What makes Amazon's Fire TV special?

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Earlier this year I obtained both a Roku 3 and an Amazon Fire TV. I use both devices and find both work very well for any home theater enthusiast and media geek. But what separates the two products, aside from a name?

With extensive playing around with each product, I've discovered what does it for me. While the Roku 3 remote is simpler, and contains a headphone jack (handy for when family is asleep, and you don't want to disturb anyone) it doesn't really have a killer feature.

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Google lays out a roadmap for Android Wear, music and more on the way

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Smartwatches seem to be a polarizing force in the marketplace these days; love or loathe them, they seem here to stay. So far, when it comes to Google's Android Wear, we've seen three devices debuted and another on the way, all of which should appeal to those looking to this market as the future.

Now, Google has expressed its software plans for the future of its wearable platform. Included in this roadmap is both music and new watchfaces, which should appeal to potential customers, though the hardware already boasts thousands of apps.

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Samsung reveals Android-powered printer lineup at IFA

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IFA, one of the world's largest tech shows, is currently in full-swing in Germany. We've seen tons of announcements and new products coming out of the show, most notable so far are new phones from both Samsung and Microsoft. But Samsung had more up its sleeve than just phones.

The company has unveiled a new lineup of printers, and this series is unique. The printers are powered by Android, and Samsung claims they are designed for business, though home users can certainly still grab one if they choose. "The MFPs are the first printers of their kind to be equipped with an Android operating system, and are designed to be more independent, intuitive and scalable for all types of business environments", the announcement states.

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Netflix throws support behind FCC proposal to increase broadband competition

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll state the obvious. Broadband in the US is broken. In fact, it's a complete mess. Speeds lag behind multiple smaller nations and providers were granted monopolies in many cases, thanks to complaining about the expense of laying the copper. At best, most citizens have access to two carriers -- that's one more than many, including yours truly.

Competition doesn't exist, but the oft-maligned head of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, wishes to change that. While his net neutrality initiative has been met with staunch opposition, this latest move may win him a few fans.

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Wait, I can add a turntable to my Sonos?

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Sonos, for those not familiar, is a multi-room audio system that many people love for its diverse functionality. You can play music everywhere in your house, providing you lay out money for each of the speaker systems. What more functionality could you possibly want?

Funny you should ask. How about a turntable? You remember -- those relics from a by-gone era. Except they still aren't dead, and many people still prefer the sound. Audiophiles claim it is the best, as opposed to CD and MP3.

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