Brian Fagioli

Microsoft Open Technologies is closing -- is that good or bad news for open source?

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Microsoft is a company that can do no wrong lately. It is wisely focusing on devices and services -- its cross-platform support is a total 180 degree turn from years past. Hell, the company is even embracing open source lately, showing that it is listening to customers and taking advantage of industry trends.

When Microsoft Open Technologies was founded as a subsidiary of Microsoft -- under Steve Ballmer's reign -- many in the open source community hailed it as a major win, and it was. Today, however, the subsidiary is shutting down and being folded into Microsoft. While some will view this as a loss for open source, I disagree; Microsoft has evolved so much under Satya Nadella, that a separate subsidiary is simply no longer needed.

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Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries release Halo: Spartan Strike for Windows and iOS

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When I was a young man, I loved video games more than anything. Not only did I play the games, but I bought magazines about them and had fun discussing them with friends. Back then -- in the 80s' and 90's -- things were much simpler. You put in your cartridge, started the system and were playing in seconds. Nowadays, however, games take forever to load, are super complicated and offer in-game purchases. It can feel like a huge money-grab. Hell, sometimes you spend more time installing updates than playing the actual games!

When Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries released Halo: Spartan Assault last year, I was in heaven. The game was a throw-back to the glory days of gaming -- pick up and play. You shot stuff and tried not to die; a wonderful concept! Today, the follow-up to that game, Halo: Spartan Strike, sees release. You can download the game now for Windows, Windows Phone, iPad and iPhone. The best part? A paltry $5.99 price tag (and no in-game purchases)!

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ASUS Republic of Gamers GR6 desktop offers big gaming performance in a small package

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Nowadays, computers seems to be trending towards more diminutive packages. It's not hard to see why -- people value having as much workspace as possible; an enormous tower taking up a desk can be an inconvenience. Just look at Apple's new MacBook; people are willing to trade performance for size while also paying a premium.

Unfortunately, this just won't do for gamers. This particular segment of consumers does not like compromise when it comes to performance. With that said, plenty of gamers also value style and size. Luckily, we are beginning to see more and more svelte gaming machines. Today, ASUS Republic of Gamers announces the GR6 desktop. If you are like me, the design alone will have you salivating. Beauty is more than skin deep here, however, as the specs are impressive too.

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Logitech's crowdsourced PX57 video game available now for Windows, OS X and iOS

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When Logitech announced that it was crowdsourcing a video game using Reddit, I was dubious to say the least. I knew the company could pull it off, but I was fearful that anonymous Internet users would ruin the "Together We Game" experiment.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded, as not only has the game been released, it is actually very fun and normal. In other words, the Internet did not spoil the game. Best of all, the tower defense game is free and available for Windows, OS X and iOS. Will you download PX57?

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Samsung starts production on SM951-NVMe -- world's first M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD

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SATA based solid state drives are so 2014. We are already in Q2 of 2015, so it is time to step things up. While SATA drives will still meet the needs of many, enthusiasts are always looking for a new way to gain an edge.

PCIe NVMe PCIe SSDs are the future, and the market is starting to see more of these drives. With that said, NVMe PCIe drives have only been in the PCIe full and half-height form factors. Today, Samsung announces it is starting production on the world's first NVMe PCIe SSD to use the M.2 form factor.

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Netflix improves experience for blind and visually impaired customers

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Everyone loves a good movie or TV show. Not only are they entertaining, but an opportunity for you to forget about your troubles too. My favorite thing about TV shows and movies, however, is the ability to be transported into a different world. By watching the film "Gravity", I can travel to space. "Game of Thrones" allows me to travel to the fictional Westeros. You get the idea.

While these are very much a visual affair, the audio isalso important. Besides dialogue and natural noise, the soundtrack plays a huge role too. Star Wars for instance offers a beautiful score. Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to see; some people are blind or visually impaired. For these people, the audio is even more important. Today, Netflix recognizes this important group of people with a new Audio Description feature, starting with the all-new "Marvel's Daredevil".

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StarTech.com releases 6-Bay Hard Drive Duplicator Dock with eSATA and USB 3.0

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If you work in IT, you know how laborious it can be to get new computers up and running. The best way to do it is with a single image, so you do not need to manually; one by one. In other words, you install a disk image to multiple machines; the image not only has Windows, but other software and settings too

While this can be done in many ways, including over network or using optical media, a hard drive duplicator is probably the fastest. StarTech.com announces a new product that not only serves as a duplicator, but as 6-drive dock too. Offering USB 3.0 and eSata connectivity, it is sure to meet the needs of many businesses and some home users too.

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Toshiba focuses on small business market with Ultraportable Portégé R30 laptop

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When it comes to computing, small businesses can have unique needs. Unfortunately, many manufacturers ignore this segment, thinking that between Enterprise and consumer offerings, the small businesses can find a solution. To be honest, this isn't quite off base -- small business owners may find a decent machine at Best Buy or online somewhere that meets their needs. Still, how nice would it be if manufacturers actually focused on this market?

Don't worry, Toshiba has you covered. Today, the manufacturer announces the Portégé R30 laptop. This 13.3-inch offering may be perfect for both small and medium-sized businesses, as it is very compact for travel, while offering solid performance using Intel's dependable Haswell processors.

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Kingston Digital KC310 960GB 'business-class' SSD now shipping

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Not all solid state drives are created equal. Sadly, I have learned this lesson the hard way. In an attempt to save money, I have in the past purchased budget drives. The result? Early failures, causing data loss and headaches.

Nowadays, I only buy quality brands, such as Samsung and Kingston. While the former makes some of the best drives on the market, the latter is no slouch either. Quite frankly, I rather love Kingston for SSDs and flash drives due to their reasonable cost and high reliability. Today, the company announces that it is shipping a 960GB "business-class" SSD.

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Linus Torvalds announces Linux kernel 4.0 -- a mediocre open source milestone

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Linux is not an operating system, but a kernel. This is an important distinction, as not all Linux-based operating systems are equal. For example, Ubuntu, Android, and Chrome OS are all Linux, but hardly the same. What makes something qualify as being Linux, is simply the utilization of this kernel.

The father of Linux, Linus Torvalds, announces the latest version of the kernel, 4.0. While you may think this is a monumental release because of the number jump, you would be quite wrong. Actually, moving to 4.0 is mostly cosmetic and inconsequential. Despite the lackluster changes, this is a milestone moment for the open source community.

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Ubuntu-based Linux distro elementary OS 0.3 'Freya' available now

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There is no such thing as the perfect Linux distribution. Try all you want, but your search will leave you fatigued and confused; perfection is impossible. With that said, you can definitely achieve happiness once you commit to a distro despite potential shortcomings. Ultimately, you must weigh the pros and cons and pick something that meets your needs.

For many people, Ubuntu is a smart choice, as it has many packages and a huge community for support. When I say Ubuntu, I also mean distros based on it, such as Mint and the distro du jour, elementary OS. If you are a fan of simplicity, elementary may be a great choice. The latest stable release, "Freya", is available for download now. It features a UI that I would call a Frankenstein-like marriage between GNOME and OS X's dock; it may appeal to Linux-newcomers and experts alike. Will you try it?

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Linux Mint Debian Edition 2 'Betsy' is here -- will you download MATE or Cinnamon?

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It is my favorite day of the week -- Friday. I've got my comfortable jeans on, while relaxing and listening to Rebecca Black on repeat (which seat should I take?). While the proximity to the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) makes this working day a treat, there are often additional things to brighten it up too, such as Linux distros.

Yes, a new version of a Linux-based operating system on a Friday is awesome, as I can play with it during the entire weekend for fun. Today, Linux Mint Debian Edition 2, dubbed "Betsy", sees a release. The big dilemma for me and my fellow Linux nerds will be deciding on the preferred desktop environment. Will you choose MATE or Cinnamon for LMDE 2?

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Epson Expression Home XP-420 Small-in-One printer is inexpensive, functional and cute

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The reports of the printer's death have been greatly exaggerated. True, both business and home users are printing less nowadays, but there are still many situations where a paper copy is needed. Businesses in particular often have requirements where a hard copy must be kept. Not to mention, All-in-One variants are even more useful, as scanning and copying are great values too.

While it isn't easy to get me excited about an All-in-One printer/scanner/copier, Epson has managed to do just that. How? With a name. The company is calling the Expression Home XP-420 a Small-in-One. Get it? "Small" instead of "all"? I found the name to be quite clever, as it takes up very little room. Upon further investigation, I was impressed with the low cost and features of this wireless printer.

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Android users download Mozilla Firefox 100 million times (and counting) from Google Play

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Firefox is important to me and I hope it is important to you. Even if you do not use the browser, there is value in having an open source browser available that isn't based on WebKit or a fork of it (Blink), as so many are nowadays. Variety is the spice of life, and having only one browser engine is not only sad, but dangerous; competition drives innovation.

If you are an Android user, you probably use Chrome or the stock Android browser and that is OK; both of those browsers are great. With that said, some people, such as myself, prefer Mozilla's Firefox. It is fast, buttery smooth and offers plugins. Today, Mozilla announces that Firefox for Android has been downloaded 100 million times. Whoa.

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ZOTAC announces Intel Broadwell-powered ZBOX M-series mini-PCs

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Mini computers are wonderful for many reasons, but one of the most notable is a small footprint. While some people have large homes and rooms, others are very limited in space. If you live in a small apartment, for example, you may only have room for a small desk; a mini-PC will save space and may even be VESA mountable to your monitor. The small size also makes them ideal in a living room -- both large and small -- as they can easily be hidden away.

Today, ZOTAC announces upgrades to its ZBOX M-series line of mini-PCs. Featuring new Broadwell Core i3 and i5 processors, they will make awesome workstations or HTPCs.

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