Brian Fagioli

Ultimate Ears unveils colorful UE ROLL 2 Bluetooth speaker -- ready for summer fun!

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Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen nowadays. Quite frankly, there are so many on the market, that it is almost impossible to impress me with one. With that said, last year, Ultimate Ears did exactly that with the UE ROLL. That speaker was diminutive, durable, and most importantly, sounded insanely good.

Today, Ultimate Ears announces the sequel to its popular offering, the UE ROLL 2. Amazingly, the speaker retains the same $99 price as its predecessor, while also improving on it. The still-round speaker looks to be another winner.

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Plugable UD-CA1 USB Type-C universal 4K charging docking station now available


If you purchased Apple's newest MacBook, congratulations -- you own a really cool svelte machine. While a bit under-powered, for some people -- depending on their needs -- it is a solid, albeit expensive, choice. Unfortunately, while its USB Type-C port is quite modern, it is the only port on the machine (other than a 3.5mm audio jack). This is problematic, as you cannot charge the laptop while utilizing USB accessories.

The way around this limitation, however, are USB hubs which also pass-through power. Today, Plugable announces a new product that takes this concept a step further. Its new UD-CA1 is a USB Type-C universal charging docking station, capable of outputting 4K video. It is a full-fledged single-cable docking solution for not only Apple's MacBook, but Windows and Linux machines with USB Type-C too -- including Chrome OS. When combined with a display, keyboard, and mouse, the Plugable UD-CA1 will turn the laptop into a powerful desktop workstation.

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Google reveals nationalities of students in open source-focused Summer of Code 2016


Every summer, many students get excited for some well-deserved time off from studies; well, if their region practices such a vacation, that is. In some cultures, school is year-round. While this is unfortunate from the standpoint of socializing and having fun, it arguably keeps the students on track for great success.

For students that are particularly motivated and education-focused, Google hosts its legendary Summer of Code. This program pairs future developers with open source projects. Not only do these young folks learn, but they get to contribute to the projects as well. Today, the search giant shares the nationalities of the students participating in Summer of Code 2016. For the first time ever, Albania has a representative -- woo-hoo! This may surprise you, but the USA is not the most-represented nation. The top country, however, may shock you -- or not.

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Microsoft embraces Raspberry Pi makers with Windows 10 IoT Core Network 3D Printer app


When you think of the Raspberry Pi and other SoC-style boards, one word likely comes to mind -- Linux. Yeah, Linus Torvalds' adaptable kernel does scale well to these diminutive computers, but don't forget about trusty ol' Microsoft. Its Windows 10 IoT operating system can also work some magic on the Pi and others. While lesser known and used in this space, this special version of Windows certainly has a future.

Now, Microsoft is focusing on "makers" with a new app for Windows 10 IoT. You see, the app will run on a board such as the Raspberry Pi, enabling networked 3D printing. Essentially, it is turning your board into a 3D printer server -- very cool! Believe it or not, many popular such printers are already compatible. So what are you waiting for? Will you give it a go?

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Jaybird releases Freedom Wireless Bluetooth Buds


Bluetooth headphones are a godsend for those that run and exercise. Heck, they are convenient for sedentary users too. Traditional analog variants -- which use a wire -- can get tangled and stuck on equipment. This can be dangerous to both the user and the device to which the wire is connected. With rumors of future iPhone devices ditching a 3.5mm jack, wireless headphones could become even more important.

Today, Jaybird -- a company recently acquired by Logitech -- releases the Freedom Wireless Bluetooth Buds. The "smart" headphones are designed for active people -- they are resistant to sweat, and offer up to eight hours of battery life. It can even interact with a mobile app called 'MySound' for iOS and Android.

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Google 'Science Journal' Android app is a digital notebook for STEM education


While all jobs and careers are important to society, scientists are arguably the greatest drivers of change. These professionals are responsible for curing diseases, improving our quality of life, and advancing our knowledge of the world.

In order to keep a steady crop of quality scientists coming out of universities, it is important to create ways to foster interest in STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- at a young age. With this in mind, Google releases an Android app, called Science Journal, aimed at helping young students record and trend scientific experiment results.

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VisionTek USB 3.0 512GB Pocket SSD [Review]


When USB flash drives first hit the market, they felt like magic. Don't forget, at that time, we weren't far removed from floppy disks. Flash drives were brilliant for students, businesses, and general home use. Over time, these USB drives became faster, while gaining greater capacities.

While the explosion of cloud storage has made flash drives less necessary, the USB devices are still very useful. Even if you do choose to store your data in the cloud, making a local backup is very wise -- redundancy, folks! Today, I am looking at one of the most intriguing such USB drives -- the VisionTek USB 3.0 512GB Pocket SSD. That's right -- a half terabyte!

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Google launches Safe Browsing API version 4


The world wide web used to be like the wild west (and still sort of is). Visiting the wrong site would often mean an infection with malware or other nastiness, such as getting taken by scams. While that can still happen today, web surfers are much more protected. Some security suites don't only scan for and remove viruses on your hard drive, but prevent the download entirely. Not to mention, users are often better trained to recognize a scam.

Unfortunately, no web browser or security software package is infallible -- nor is any user. Thankfully, Google is working around the clock to keep the world protected. Its Safe Browsing API is available to developers, allowing software -- such as Chrome -- to warn a user before they visit a dangerous site. Today, the search giant launches the fourth version of the API.

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Microsoft bringing Minecraft to China


Minecraft is insanely popular, and for good reason. Not only is it fun, but light on resources. In other words, it can run on many desktop and laptop computers, not to mention smartphones and tablets. There is even a special Windows 10 edition in Microsoft's app store.

Today, Microsoft announces that it is bringing Minecraft to China. While that news is great, the way they are announcing it is a bit disappointing. You see, the company has produced a video showing creative designer of Minecraft, Jens Bergensten, playfully mocking old-school dubbed martial arts videos. While I am sure it was not the intention, it feels a bit culturally insensitive. Surely the people of China are more than these tired stereotypes, right?

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Bracketron TekGrip Power Dock is an elegant smartphone charger and mount for your car


Summertime is on the horizon, which for many folks means traveling by car. Whether taking a short drive to a local beach, or a cross-country family vacation, the warm weather makes for a fun time -- if you have air-conditioning, that is! Nowadays, smartphones make the experience even better, thanks to streaming music and GPS-based mapping services.

Unfortunately, keeping your phone charged and easily accessible is problematic. Wires can easily get tangled, and holding your phone while driving is dangerous. Not to mention, when multiple people are in the car, there may be arguments over who gets to use the 12V outlet. Today, Bracketron unveils the TekGrip Power Dock -- an elegant smartphone charger and mount that may alleviate many of the aforementioned woes.

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Control your home using Sony Android TV, Logitech Harmony Hub, and exclusive beta app


Home automation and control is all the rage nowadays. Doing things such as turning on lights or adjusting a thermostat with a smartphone -- or other connected device -- is not only convenient, but empowering for those with disabilities too. Think about it -- if someone is unable to get out of a bed, for instance, they can utilize this technology to be more independent.

Today, Logitech announces a really cool new way to interface with its Harmony Hub -- Sony Android TVs. By installing a special beta version of the Logitech Harmony app, you can control your home using an on-screen television interface.

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Google Allo and Duo are two communication apps no one wanted


The last thing the world needs is more messaging apps. There are already too many of them, such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and Hangouts to name a few. Quite frankly, it can be maddening keeping track of them all. The same can be said for video chat apps too.

Today, Google introduces two new communication apps to the world. Called Allo and Duo, the search giant hopes that users will choose them over competitors' solutions. The question is, why should consumers care?

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Samsung Pay now supports membership and loyalty cards


I love shopping in brick and mortar stores (except Walmart and Dollar General). No matter what I am buying -- shoes, clothes, food, technology -- I have a blast. My favorite aspect of shopping, however, is getting deals. Spending money is certainly not one of my favorite things, but if I get a discounted sale, it makes the experience much more satisfying.

Unfortunately, many stores require membership and loyalty cards to get the lower prices. These pieces of plastic can accumulate quickly, becoming unwieldy in a wallet or purse. Digital payment solutions should alleviate this dilemma. Apple Pay recently introduced support for Kohls loyalty cards. Today, Samsung Pay is getting membership and loyalty card support too.

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Microsoft opposes Brexit

British girl with tablet

Here at BetaNews, we try to avoid political topics; unless it is somehow technology related, of course. Obviously, one reason for this is that politics is not the focus of our site. Another reason that I personally avoid it, is that the subject of politics is very polarizing and can potentially lead to non-productive name-calling in the comments.

With all of that said, Microsoft has pulled me into the "Brexit" discussion, otherwise known as the EU referendum. Don't know what that is? Well, in very basic terms, the UK has to make a decision on whether or not to leave the European Union. As an American, I will keep my opinion on the matter to myself. Michel Van der Bel, Microsoft UK CEO, however, has decided to share the company's Brexit stance -- opposition to leaving the EU -- in a letter aimed at its UK employees. You can read the full letter below.

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Google Cultural Institute invents 'Art Camera' to easily capture gigapixel images of paintings


Digital media is arguably making its analog counterparts less important. For instance, an old vinyl album or rare CD can be streamed -- the physical version just takes up space and can be a burden. The same can be said for books -- having a house full of bound sheets of paper is sort of pointless nowadays -- get a Kindle, y'all.

One thing that is not easily represented in the digital world is paintings. Sure, you can always view a captured image of a work of art, such as the Mona Lisa, on your computer, but it was never the same. Why? You need to experience it in person to truly see the detail, like brush strokes. This is changing, however, thanks to Google's new invention -- the Art Camera.

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