Brian Fagioli

Microsoft offering 'Super Saturday' in-store deals -- tomorrow only!

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Holy cow, where did the time go!? Tomorrow is December 20th, and Christmas is almost here. If you are like me, you have not finished your shopping yet; yes, it is time to start panicking. Sure, I can run down to Bath and Body Works and buy some lotions for gifts, or go to Target and buy a foot-bath or two, but let's be honest -- those aren't the most thoughtful. In my experience, body lotions, foot-baths, Chia Pets, etc., often get tucked-away into a closet to be regifted at a later date.

Today however, Microsoft is here to help, announcing some special in-store deals for last minute shoppers -- gifts people might actually want. These deals will only be live tomorrow, so be prepared.

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Sign up now to beta test a 'Dog Wearable Device' with Betabound by Centercode

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Nowadays, dog ownership is more like adopting a baby than buying a pet. What do I mean by this? Canines are often a part of people's families, sometimes kept in higher regard than the human members. While this may seem crazy to some, I totally get it. My dog has more clothes than me and she has more toys than the average human child. Keep in mind, dogs love you unconditionally, and make your life better -- they deserve to be spoiled and have the best lives possible.

One of the most popular things in technology nowadays is wearables. While smartwatches have been slow to take off, Apple's watch will likely change that next year. For now, it is fitness wearables that are all the rage. Guess what? An all-new health-focused wearable for dogs is getting ready to hit the market and I am happy to say that dog-owning BetaNews readers can apply for the opportunity to test it.

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Americans are using social media to enhance Chanukkah and Christmas

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In the grand scheme of things, America is a very young nation. Still, we Americans have deep-rooted traditions that are carried over from our ancestors of the old-world. This is most apparent during the holidays -- in November and December -- as the country transforms for Christmas and Chanukkah. Even people that aren't of the Christian or Jewish variety are welcome to participate.

Lately however, Americans are using social media to enhance the holidays. In other words, even though old-world traditions like Christmas trees and Menorahs remain, modern services like Twitter and Facebook are being leveraged too. A new survey from Ebates.com shows us how much so.

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Krispy Kreme wants customers to talk to strangers using Google Hangouts on Chromebooks

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As a fat guy, I love doughnuts; it's like its in my DNA. If the detectives on Law and Order took a sample of my blood, and looked under a microscope, they would see sprinkles and frosting swimming around with the platelets and stuff. If they were hunting for a robbery suspect called the Doughnut Bandit, I'd likely be guilty. They could probably follow the trail of powdered sugar from the crime scene to my house.

Truth be told, I do not discriminate either; all doughnut brands are welcome -- Entenmann's, Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme to name a few. Today however, one of those companies, Krispy Kreme, turns to Google for its newest tech need. You see, the doughnut pusher is now using Chromebooks in its stores. The usage is odd though, as the company wants its customers to talk to strangers over Hangouts.

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Microsoft's Bing predicts 2015 -- Patriots win Super Bowl, Beyoncé gets Best Album Grammy

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Do I believe in psychics? No. I do not believe that people have magical powers that can predict the future. With that said, I like watching the Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, on TV. If you aren't familiar, she claims to talk to the dead, and transmits messages from the deceased to their families. I watch it from an entertainment perspective only.

I prefer my predictions to come from good ol' fashioned computers. Microsoft's Bing has seen some success in its predictions, but today, it is taking it to another level. You see, the search-engine is now predicting the events of 2015! As a Jets fan, and overall hater of New England sports, I hope Bing is wrong, as it predicts Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

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Google makes End-to-End open source -- moves project to GitHub

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Back in June, Google announced an alpha Google Chrome extension called "End-to-End". This project was designed to easily encrypt traffic between two points. Having encryption be easy is key, as users will avoid complicated solutions. The problem is, not everyone uses Chrome; some people prefer Firefox, Safari, Opera and more. Why is this a problem? In order for End-To-End to be effective and adopted as a pseudo-standard, it must be available for browsers other than Google's own.

Today, Google announces that the project is going open source, and moving to GitHub. While it is still designed for Chrome, the code can now be used by any interested party, potentially for use in other browsers and software. In other words, companies like Mozilla and Apple can start using the code today, and possibly make their browsers compatible. Unfortunately, territorial pissing-matches still exist in the tech world, and there is no guarantee that people will look to adopt a Google solution.

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Google and Verizon sign patent license agreement -- lawyers probably crying

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There are a lot of lawyers in the world, and in order to support their families, they must work. This means that lawsuits are essential for the overall economy; sad but true. Lately, it seems like a lot of tech companies are suing each other over patents, and quite frankly, it is tiring. I am sure some lawsuits over patents are legit, but many seem to be patent-troll nonsense.

Well, to the possible dismay of the lawyers for Verizon and Google, there may not be any legal disputes over patents between the companies for a while. Why? The two giants have signed a patent license agreement for various products and technologies. Which products and technologies, however, are not yet revealed.

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Microsoft brings Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint

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Windows Phone is a great operating system. If you disagree, you are wrong. Sure, it has frustratingly low app availability, including a lack of Google apps, but the underlying OS is wonderful. Live tiles are useful, and the UI is smart and attractive. Hell, the hardware is wonderful too, and it is often sold at very affordable prices.

Today, Microsoft and Sprint are joining forces to bring the Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint's own network. Believe it or not, this is the first-ever Lumia handset for Boost and Virgin USA -- two of Sprint's sub-carriers.

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Netflix for Android phones gains Social Recommendation and Android Wear support

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Netflix streaming selection leaves a lot to be desired. With that said, the monthly streaming plan is still one of the best deals in entertainment. Hell, the paltry $8.99 is almost nothing in 2014 dollars -- I spend more at Starbucks in one day on soy chai lattes. What really makes the service attractive, however, is its ubiquity; it can be found on most streaming boxes, game consoles and mobile devices.

Sadly, Netflix sort of dissed Android users earlier this year. How, you ask? Well, it delivered new social features for iOS and game consoles, but left users of Google's mobile OS in the cold. Today, Netflix issues a minor mea culpa, and delivers those features to Android too. But wait, that's not all -- Netflix takes things a step further and introduces Android Wear support! In other words, users of Google's smartwatch platform are getting yet another cool feature to justify their purchase.

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Google collaborates with Akamai to improve Public DNS offering

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Whenever I set up a new router, I always change the DNS settings to point to Google Public DNS. Why? I find the search-giant's solution to resolve addresses faster than my ISP. Heck, when I am connecting to someone else's network, I enable Google DNS in my device settings too.

According to Google its DNS solution handles a mind-boggling 400 billion responses per day. Today, the search giant announces that a recent collaboration with Akamai will improve the speed of accessing location-based Akamai hosted content.

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Lenovo Edge 15: A great laptop, just in time for Christmas [Review]

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If you need a laptop, there are generally two routes you can go -- desktop replacement or desktop companion. In other words, a svelte 11 inch laptop is cute and light, but hardly something you would want to use full-time. Such a small screen can be tedious for doing a lot of work. Sure, you can connect it to a larger monitor for enhanced productivity, but that is an additional purchase, and requires a dedicated work area in the home. What about those of us that want a machine that can be used comfortably anywhere -- including a kitchen table -- with a large screen and full keyboard? Not everyone is just surfing the web on their laptops as the Chromebook crowd would have you think. Some of us need an honest-to-goodness desktop replacement for getting work done.

Luckily, this demographic is not ignored, and good ol' fashioned laptops still exist, even if they don't get the same "oohs" and "ahs" as their tiny cousins. I became quite intrigued by the Lenovo Edge 15, because first of all, it is Lenovo -- a durable and dependable brand. More importantly though, it has a 15 inch screen, and a full keyboard...including a number pad! The fact that it is a 2-in-1 partial-convertible, is just icing on the cake. While everything looked good on paper, the question became, did the real-world experience match up? With a desire to find this out on my own, I obtained one for review.

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Countdown to Armageddon -- Google Earth API will be dead in 1 year!

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In the grand scheme of things, we aren't far removed from a time when most people thought the Earth was flat. Yes, we went from thinking a boat could sail off of the edge of the world, to landing a spacecraft on a comet -- crazy, right?

When Google Earth was first released, it was a mind-boggling program. It allowed users to easily navigate a virtual Earth; a high-tech globe, if you will. While people take it for granted, the search-giant's offering remains wonderful. Unfortunately for developers, Google is killing the Earth API.

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Razer announces studio-grade Seirēn Digital Microphone -- the question is, why?

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A company's brand is something very important. Quite frankly, once a brand is blemished or diluted, it can be very hard to recover. If a restaurant has a food-poisoning incident, foodies are not quick to forget. Dilution though, is a bigger issue, as brands often lose focus on their DNA. What do I mean by this? A good example is Polaroid. The brand used to be synonymous with photography, but now, after a series of business calamities, the name brand is essentially rented out to the highest bidder. The result is you see low-end televisions and tablets with the name Polaroid, and the brand is diluted and cheapened.

True, there is nothing wrong with a company looking to expand its offerings, as long as it stays true to the brand image. Today, PC-gaming hardware manufacturer Razer announces a slight diversion from its typical brand focus, with a new studio-grade microphone, called the Seirēn. Can it be used for gaming? Sure, I suppose so, but it is not designed for it. Instead the focus is on music recording and audio streaming. The question for me is, why?

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Digital Storm announces the ECLIPSE -- a 'Slim Gaming Tower of Power' PC

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As a system-builder, I take great pride in building my own machines. Quite frankly, selecting all of your components, one by one, can be very rewarding. Unfortunately, buying piece by piece can be rather costly, adding up to more than many pre-built systems. Not to mention, it can be time and labor intensive, and many people, including myself, are very busy. It is for these reasons that I am considering forgoing a new build next year, and instead, opting for a pre-built desktop.

Let's be honest though, it can be confusing to pick a manufacturer for your new PC -- there are so many companies to choose from. Today, one such company, Digital Storm, announces the ECLIPSE -- a PC that it calls "Slim Gaming Tower of Power". Not only is the computer powerful and sexy, but starts at a very low $699. Hey, this is just in time for Christmas -- this will surely make the gamer in your life happy.

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Don't trust people with your Wi-Fi password? No worries -- Chromecast gets guest mode

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People that know me, know that I am socially awkward. I am useless at a party, and overall, face-to-face human interaction just escapes me. Suffice to say, computers give me an outlet -- I am rather suave on IRC, you see. As a result, I don't have many friends, but regarding the ones I do have, I refuse to give them my Wi-Fi password. These aren't new friends either; I have known some more than 20 years. Quite frankly, I share the password with the family members in my home under protest.

While not everyone is as odd as me, I know I am not alone. Surely there are other nerds that view friends and family with access to the network as weak-links in the security chain. In other words, I don't want some malware-infested machine touching my precious home network. Apparently, Google knows of my woes, as today, the search-giant announces guest mode for Chromecast.

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