Alan Buckingham

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


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?


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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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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Dropbox now speaks four new languages

new dropbox logo

Cloud storage service Dropbox has previously moved into other nations, attempting to globalize its platform in an effort to gain new users. Now the company is expanding a bit more, with the introduction of four new languages.

Both Dropbox and Carousel, which is the service's photo and video app for iOS and Android, are receiving this language update. Danish, Dutch, Swedish and Thai are all included in this new update.

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Samsung and Spotify team up for new multi-room wireless speaker system


Whole home audio does not come cheap, and the big player to date has been the Sonos system. Now Samsung is jumping into the market and has found a major music player to partner with in its implementation of the system.

The electronics maker and music streaming service Spotify are announcing the new Samsung Wireless Audio Speaker range (M7 and M5). "With Spotify Connect built in, you can stream your favorite music and playlists directly from Spotify. Hit play on your mobile or tablet, and the music booms out in any room of your home. You can even play through multiple speakers at the same time", the streaming service states.

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Earbits music service announces it is shutting down


Just this week Amazon rolled out Prime Music to all subscribers of its video and shipping service, adding one more competitor to an already crowded market. However, tempering that good news was a bit of sadness, as one other service has announced it will be closing its virtual doors very soon.

Earbits, an up and coming competitor in the space, is announcing it will close up shop on June 16th. Earbits was never a major player in the field, but it provided an alternative option, and was a benefit to aspiring artists, so the loss will be felt by many.

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