Brian Fagioli

Microsoft shares its '12 Days of Deals' for 2016 Holiday Shopping -- here's which days are best

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Well folks, December is here, and before you know it, Christmas and other holidays will be upon us. You know what that means -- shopping. For some ultra-responsible people, their holiday shopping is already done. For many other people, however, there are still many gifts to buy.

Technology-related gifts are always popular, and this year Microsoft is rolling out some great deals. In fact, unlike Black Friday which only lasts one day, the Windows-maker is offering a mind-boggling "12 Days of Deals". Many of the deals are available both online or at Microsoft's retail stores, but the ones labeled "In-Store Doorbuster Deal" are only available in the latter. While you can see all of the deals below, lets dive in and see which are the best.

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HP unveils rugged 'ProBook x360 11 Education Edition' Windows 10 convertible laptop

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This may be a bit of a generalization, but children are not the most responsible people. Since they don't yet really understand the value of a dollar, they may not appreciate or care for belongings as well as they should. This can be especially true when things are given to them for use at school, such as textbooks, musical instruments, or computers.

HP apparently understands how destructive some kids can be, as the company has created a rugged (MIL-STD 810G) education-focused convertible laptop. The all-new 11.6-inch touch-screen (1366 x 768) ProBook x360 11 Education Edition runs Windows 10, and is designed to take a beating.

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Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based operating system now available for download

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Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there are a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

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Seagate Duet is a 1TB USB HDD with automatic Amazon Drive cloud backup capability

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When it comes to backing up a computer, I am a big proponent of the cloud. While local backups should also be part of your plan, redundancy is key. If there is ever a disaster, such as a flood or fire, you will be very glad for the cloud backup. If the cloud storage company goes out of business, you will be thankful for the local copy. In other words, don't just rely on one method.

Seagate has an interesting new product, called "Duet", that it developed with Amazon, and it aims to create a positive redundant backup experience. The hardware itself is rather basic -- a 1TB 2.5-inch portable USB (Type-A) hard disk drive. The magic is in the software (Windows and Mac only), however, as it creates automatic cloud backups of the HDD contents to Amazon Drive in the cloud.

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AOC P2779VC 27-inch 1080p display has integrated Qi wireless charging

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1080p monitors are a dime a dozen nowadays -- the market is saturated with them. Heck, many people are opting for displays with much better resolution too. In other words, it is virtually impossible to have a 1080p monitor stand out from the crowd.

And yet, AOC has managed to do so. How? The company has integrated a Qi charger into the base of its newest 27-inch monitor -- the P2779VC. If you own a compatible smartphone, you can charge it wirelessly by placing it on the monitor. That unique feature aside, this PLS display has other cool aspects too, such as 8-bit color depth and 178-degree viewing angles.

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Google brings 4K video live streaming to YouTube

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While 1080p may look "good enough" to you, once you move to a higher resolution display, it is hard to go back. Prices for both 4K monitors and televisions continue to drop, meaning more and more consumers are buying them. During this past Black Friday, there were many such TVs being offered with big discounts.

Now that there are a healthy amount of these displays in the wild, content creators will be more motivated to release content in that resolution -- movies, TV, and video games. While Google added 4K playback to YouTube years ago, it did not offer live video streaming in that resolution. Today this changes, as the video site finally gets 4K live streaming -- including 360-degree streams. Best of all? Watching the streams won't require Microsoft Edge!

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Google successfully uses machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy

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Diabetes is a hell of a disease. While many people view it as nothing more than the inability to eat sweets, it is actually much more devastating than just that. If untreated, having high glucose levels can wreak havoc on a patient's body -- these folks can go blind, have limbs amputated, or worst of all, die.

Diabetic eye disease is caused by retinopathy. Affected diabetics can have small tears inside the eye, causing bleeding. Over time, they can lose vision, and ultimately, they can go blind. Luckily, Google has been trying to use machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy. Guess what? The search giant has seen much success. Not only are the computers able to detect the disease at the same level as ophthalmologists, but Google is actually slightly better!

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Google releases 'Featured Photos Screensaver' app for Mac

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Google and photography seem to go hand in hand. The company's new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones take very high-quality pictures, while its Photos app for Android and iOS is a brilliant way to both store and categorize images in the cloud.

Today, Google takes its passion for photography to another level with an all-new app for macOS. Dubbed 'Featured Photos Screensaver' it creates a screensaver using images that are sourced from user photos which were uploaded to Google+. Don't worry about privacy, folks -- these are images that users have agreed to share. Google+ photographers can choose to opt-out if they prefer.

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ZOTAC VR GO is a Windows 10 backpack PC powered by Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070

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Virtual reality is rather cool, although it requires money and commitment. To truly experience VR on a PC, you need a powerful computer and, sometimes, a room to be dedicated to it too. After all, the VR mask usually has to be tethered to the desktop PC -- a messy experience, leading to tangled wires. Sadly, it is these wires that really limit the fun of VR on PC.

Thankfully, some PC manufacturers have wisely created backpack computers -- a PC designed to be worn on the user's back. This creates greater mobility while experiencing VR, although it does have the downside of requiring batteries (which ultimately need charging). Today, ZOTAC unveils a new backpack PC, and it looks amazing. Called 'VR GO' it is equipped with two 6600 mAh batteries, allowing up to two hours of game play. You can buy additional batteries and swap them for even longer gaming sessions, however.

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Microsoft enables Linux desktop users to send SMS text messages with latest Skype Alpha

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Linux-based desktop operating systems can sometimes be incredible for productivity and security, but they can be deficient from a feature and application perspective too. Windows 10 and macOS Sierra, for instance, are chock-full of some exciting software that is simply not available on Linux, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, although alternatives (LibreOffice and Gimp for example) can sometimes be passable.

With all of that said, Microsoft has delivered an incredible feature to Linux-based desktop operating systems by way of the latest Alpha version of its Skype client. What is this exciting feature of which I speak? Well, the newly-released Skype for Linux 1.13 allows users to send SMS test messages from the operating system!

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BitFenix Whisper M quad-rail PSU is modular, efficient, and quiet

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When building a computer, many people focus on performance and cooling. There is another aspect that is important to some consumers, however -- noise. Sometimes builders get so caught up in benchmarks, that they forget about how loud the tower may be. As a result, the computer could sound like a jet engine. This is unfortunate, as it can negatively impact the overall computing experience.

Luckily, more and more manufacturers are focusing on developing quiet products. Today, famed chassis manufacturer BitFenix unveils a high-quality quiet power supply unit. Dubbed "Whisper M", it should deliver a good balance of performance and quiet operation. The unit is fully modular, and is available in wattage ranging from 450 to 850. Best of all, it is very efficient (92 percent) too.

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Microsoft Solitaire Collection from Windows 10 now available for Android and iOS

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Back in the the mid-1990's, everyone thought they needed a computer. After all, Windows 95 made using one particularly easy, and the internet was a very attractive thing. Unfortunately, once some people got their first-ever PC set up in their homes, they didn't really know what to do with it. In the end, it would turn out that some consumers spent thousands of dollars for a machine dedicated to one thing -- playing Solitaire! Yes, this fun Windows game is responsible for much wasted time, but not just at home -- at businesses too. The card game has historically been viewed as a negative for productivity.

Fast forward to 2016 and fewer people are sitting in front of large desktop computers at home -- people are increasingly turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment. Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, Microsoft Solitaire Collection comes to both Android and iOS.

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Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 360-degree YouTube live video stream online here!

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Thanksgiving is coming this Thursday, meaning friends, family, food, and football. Around the USA, people will be chowing-down on Turkey, stuffing, and all the other popular food side-dishes too. Another popular Thanksgiving tradition is watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV (if you cannot be there in person). If you aren't familiar, it is a New York City parade featuring many giant inflatable cartoon characters, plus floats carrying celebrities.

Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys watching the parade, leading to fights over the television. This year, however, a TV is not required. If you have an internet-connected device, you can watch it on YouTube in glorious 360 degrees for the first time ever. Best of all, BetaNews has the video ready for you below.

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Satechi unveils elegant Smart Charging Stand for smartphones and wearables

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Wearables are all the rage nowadays, and I expect them to be very popular holiday gifts this year. While Microsoft has killed its Band, there are still many other great options such as Apple Watch, Fitbit, and more.

Unfortunately, a smartwatch or other wearable is yet another thing to charge. As a result, many people have wires all over the place, leading to messy nightstands and kitchen counters. Luckily, a good charging station can make things much more tidy. Today, Satechi unveils its Smart Charging Stand for smartphones and wearables. This elegant product will not only reduce clutter, but offer much convenience too.

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Fedora 25 now available -- makes it easier to switch from Windows 10 or macOS to Linux

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After the release of both alpha and beta versions, Fedora 25 is officially here and ready for production machines. If you aren't familiar with the popular Linux-based operating system, please know that it is the distribution of choice for the founder of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds.

One of the most endearing qualities of Fedora is its focus on only offering truly free open source software. Also, you can always count on a very modern version of the Linux kernel being available. Despite having very up-to-date packages, it is always very stable too. My favorite aspect, however, is the commitment to the GNOME desktop environment; other DEs are available, though.

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