Alan Buckingham

Microsoft brings better document collaboration to Office 365

OfficeMix200-175

With the introduction of Office 2013, Microsoft brought software as a service to the table -- something some analysts had long expected would happen. Under the moniker of Office 365, the company introduced a subscription model that allows for a monthly or annual fee and grants five licences to each person or family.

Today the software and services company rolls out an improvement to this offering, adding what it calls better document collaboration. The feature was actually announced earlier this year at the Exchange Developer Conference, but only now do we see the final product. Microsoft hopes this will eliminate the need to share documents via emails in an effort to work with other people on the files.

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Radical.FM launches 25 million ad-free songs on Android

music woman tablet headphones

Is there room for one more music app in the market? Radical.FM is hoping so, and it has big plans to become your service of choice, competing with the big names like Spotify and Rdio. Today the company is planning an ambitious app launch for the Android platform.

"The app is free, commercial-free, and available for immediate download in the Google Play Store", the company states. This is the first foray into the Google mobile platform, but the service was already available for iOS.

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PlayOn giving away free Chromecast with lifetime subscription

PlayOn's main menu on the Wii

PlayOn is one of the best cord-cutter services that flies largely under the radar. The online TV and DVR service is completely legal, thanks to the way it operates and, in the past, has partnered with Roku to distribute devices. Now PlayOn and its PlayLater service are going to distribute even more devices to customers.

The company is announcing that new "lifetime subscription" customers will receive a free Chromecast with the purchase. "With Chromecast and PlayOn, smartphones and tablets become powerful remote controls for TV viewing. Users can browse through hundreds of channels and thousands of movies and shows in an easy-to-navigate interface on their mobile device. PlayOn's PlayLater software gives Chromecast users DVR capability to record almost any online video for casting later when they are no longer available online. The included PlayOn browser extension gives users the ability to cast almost any full screen video from any browser on their PC to their TV with ease and without any web browser frames", the company says.

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Amazon begins rolling out Fire TV update, adds music to the box

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Amazon is now into the set-top box market, diving in full force to compete with the likes of Roku and Apple TV. Since launching the procduct, the retailer has already released a software update, and now a second is rolling out, but on a gradual program. Some users are reporting having already received it, though not all of us have.

The update takes the software to version 51.1.1, upgrading from the current 51.0.2 and adding music to the mix. This seems logical, given Prime has just added a streaming service. However, according to Dave Zatz, who already has the update, that is surprisingly not included -- an omission that seems a bit strange.

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Is Android TV the answer to Google's living room prayers?

family-watching-tv

Google had lots of announcements at last week's I/O conference, though most seemed to have been overshadowed by Android Wear. However, that doesn't mean that the other things weren’t important. One of the items shown was Android TV, though it may lend as much confusion as it does clarity to Google's living room strategy.

There are a couple of reasons for that. First is that the company already has Google TV, which also runs Android, though the set-top boxes based on the platform have failed to gain much traction in the market. The other, and perhaps much more pressing issue, is Chromecast.

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Plex will be available at Android TV launch

plex-google-tv

Plex is perhaps the best media server available for customers these days, though that will certainly vary by individual tastes. The server and apps are capable of running across almost any platform, and Google will apparently not provide a stumbling block for that.

The company is announcing it will be ready when Android TV launches later this year. The platform, which had been rumored for sometime, was announced this past week at the Google I/O conference.

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Amazon Studios releases kids' show Creative Galaxy

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Amazon Prime has been busy these days, both adding a music streaming service, as well as launching its own original programming. The latter has already seen complete first seasons for Betas and Alpha House, and more pilots set to launch later this year.

Today the Studio arm of the retailer takes on children's shows, debuting a new title called Creative Galaxy. The show comes from Angela Santomero, who previously worked on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, as well as creating the hit show Blue's Clues.

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Google brings the marriage of Chrome OS and Android closer

toshiba-chromebook

Ever since Google released its two operating systems -- the one for computers and the one for phones and tablets -- users have talked of a merger of the two. So far that hasn't happened, and at Google I/O today it still didn't. But things got a bit cozier.

The company unveiled closer integration between the two platforms, bringing phone notifications to your computer. Is your phone ringing? Your Chromebook will popup a notice telling you who it is. Got a text message? That too will appear on your notebook. In fact, Chromebooks will even notify you of low battery life on your mobile device, letting you know it's time to charge it.

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Aereo's Supreme Court loss proves Washington has no business making decisions on technology

justice_frankfurt

We've seen this before. Washington DC proving time and again its lack of knowledge about the modern technological world. We witnessed it when Ted Stephens, in a speech to congress, famously referred to the internet as "a series of tubes". Most recently, we've had to deal with the FCC looking to put an end to Net Neutrality -- see John Oliver's description for the best explanation on that. The latter is more likely less about knowledge and more about being in the pockets of cable company lobbyists.

Now the latest blow has been dealt. The Supreme Court has handed down its decision on Aereo. If you aren't familiar, Aereo is, or perhaps was, a TV provider which was moving into various cities around the US. If it was in your market, you could "rent" an antenna which picked up over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts. The company then retransmitted this to the customer via an internet connection. Each customer rented his or her own dime-sized antenna.

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PBS Kids comes to Apple TV, Android and Chromecast

sesame-street

Many of us grew up with PBS programming, such as Sesame Street. While that show is still around -- it seems it will last forever -- others are now popular with today's youth. But while we may remember a console TV and antenna, today kids expect things like cable and set-top boxes, even smartphones and tablets. Public television is moving on to meet these new needs.

Today PBS Kids announces an expansion of its reach, coming to Apple TV, Android and even Chromecast. Along for the ride, are many of kids' favorite shows, including that old standby, Sesame Street. Big Bird will be joined by others, though, like Daniel Tiger.

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McAfee issues warning that mobile malware is on the rise

mobile security shield

A lot is made of malware and ransomware and other ailments on the mobile platform, especially with Android. Most customers are unlikely to encounter a problem, but the fact is it does exist if you go looking in the bad places -- yes, you must seek it out.

Now anti-virus company McAfee has issued a report and the findings, while sounding dire, reveal that customers at risk are those doing what they shouldn't be. The company warns "against downloading unofficial apps and purchasing from third-party app stores, which have become a haven for shoddily created apps.  Consumers often do not adequately check the 'permissions' section of the app to see if it is secure, leaving them exposed to malware or hackers that may access their data through vulnerabilities that were never patched before the app was released to market".

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Logitech brings Nest control to Harmony

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Logitech, which owns the Harmony brand of universal remotes, has recently been updating the line. We finally saw new remotes, along with a keyboard that can control all of your home theater equipment. Most recently the company even added support for Amazon's Fire TV and the Hue lights.

Now Harmony becomes even more friendly to home automation, with the company announcing it is now compatible with Google's latest toy -- the Nest thermostat. "Now, there’s no more pausing the movie to grab a blanket or turn on the AC. With this free update, you can view and adjust your Nest Thermostat settings directly from the color touch-screen on your remote. Large arrows on the touch screen allow a quick and simple temperature adjustment, and even support multiple thermostats in different areas of your house", the company announces.

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Amazon boasts of big first week for Prime Music service

Girl listening to music

Almost two weeks ago, retail giant Amazon added music streaming for Prime customers. This is in addition to the other awesome benefits, such as a solid instant video service, free two day shipping and a Kindle lending library. For $99 per year, customers get all of these features, and Amazon reaps rewards in the background.

Now the company is boasting of the big first week that its new music service experienced, claiming tens of millions of songs have already been streamed in those opening days. "Prime members across the country have been rockin' out this week, exceeding our expectations for how well this new benefit would be received," says Steve Boom, vice president of Digital Music for Amazon.

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The day the music didn't die: Earbits rises from the ashes

music headphones laptop

This past weekend we wrote about music service Earbits shutting down, effective June 16th. The service sadly ran out of funding after making a good run, competing against the big players in the music streaming business. But rumors of the service's demise were greatly exaggerated -- nod to Mark Twain.

Founder and CEO Joey Flores sent out a message to customers with some good news -- the site will live to fight another day. In brief, Flores states "The sentiment of the community did not go unnoticed. Since then, a strategic partner has stepped forward and provided the necessary funding to bring Earbits back online indefinitely. The web service and mobile apps have been relaunched, effective immediately".

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Netflix brings Breaking Bad to 4K

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4K, also known as Ultra HD, is coming. In fact, it's here, few people can yet take advantage of it, but that's OK, as there is little content to view anyway. Netflix made a small splash when it released the latest season of House of Cards in 4K, but now it is diving in deeper.

The streaming service announces that it is bringing all 62 episodes of the hit show Breaking Bad into the Ultra HD revolution. "Netflix and Sony agreed on an early subset of IMF for the transfer of the video and audio files for Breaking Bad. IMF stands for Interoperable Master Format, an emerging SMPTE specification governing file formats and metadata for digital media archiving and B2B exchange", says Kevin McEntee of Netflix.

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