Mihăiță Bamburic

Microsoft's back to school deal helps students save $300 on Surface and Xbox One bundle

Surface Pro 4

Microsoft today introduces a pretty sweet back to school deal, giving students the option to save $300 with the purchase of a Surface device and an Xbox One console. Part of the bundle are three free extras, one of which is a wireless controller.

The promo is valid for all configurations of the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, and starts at just $878. For the money, students get the base Surface Pro 4 and a 500GB Xbox One game bundle. The two devices are normally available to students for $809.10 and $279, respectively, when purchased separately.

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VLC 2.0 app now publicly available for Windows 10 devices

VLC 2.0.0 Windows 10 dark mode

VideoLAN today releases the first public beta build of VLC for Windows 10. Now a universal app, it comes with the same core feature set as the Android and iOS apps but also a few platform-specific extras. VLC 2.0.0 is compatible with all the common Windows 10 devices, including smartphones.

The main features that VLC 2.0.0 brings to the table are the vast audio and video format support, the ability to view and download subtitles and synchronize audio and video, and a network sharing browser. Additionally for Windows 10 users, it also plays well with key features like Cortana and Continuum.

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Happy fifth birthday, Google+: It's like you were never here

Sad man birthday

I tend to look back fondly at the technology that has left a mark on me throughout the years. Memorable trips down memory lane involve things that have been a part of my digital lifestyle for many, many years. Google+ is one of them. As a longtime member, I should be reminiscing now as today the social network turns five. But, for some reason, the only thing that I can think about is knowing from the get go that it would never be the next big thing. It looks like I was onto something.

Google+ is one of the largest social networks, but if you are an active user like me you are probably wondering what all those other members are up to because few of them seem to share new things these days. As time goes by, it feels like Google+ is shrinking to a small crowd of enthusiasts. Few people seem to care about it lately, and I am slowly joining the ranks of those who can't be bothered anymore.

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Report of Google making its own smartphone is rubbish

Boy laughing bed tablet laptop

Google is rumored to be working on a smartphone of its own that would help it "tighten its grip on mobile software and see it compete directly with the iPhone", according to a report from The Telegraph. The information comes from the usual "sources familiar with the discussions", who are all too often making the news because some fellow writers have no filters whatsoever.

To folks completely unfamiliar with the mobile space this report would make sense. It has all the right ingredients for that, but fortunately using just a small dose of common sense one can immediately call this report for what it is -- rubbish. Here's why.

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What is the most popular Surface tablet?

surface_pro_4_trade_in

While we know how much revenue the Surface line generates, as Microsoft posts these figures in quarterly earnings reports, the same cannot be said about unit sales. The software giant prefers to keep these numbers under wraps, leaving us in the dark with regards to which one of its Windows-powered tablets is most popular.

However, a new report by cross-promotion network AdDuplex shares some light on the matter, giving us a usage share breakdown for the six most popular Surface devices, including the most expensive and controversial of the bunch, the Surface Book.

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Google's free Android Basics Nanodegree helps you learn how to code

developer laptop

Google wants more people to make Android apps, so it has teamed up with Udacity to create a new program aimed at aspiring developers. Called Android Basics Nanodegree, it offers a series of courses and services that will teach students, with little to no coding experience, how to make their first Android app.

"The courses walk you through step-by-step on how to build an order form for a coffee shop, an app to track pets in a shelter, an app that teaches vocabulary words from the Native American Miwok tribe, and an app on recent earthquakes in the world. At the end of the course, you will have an entire portfolio of apps to share with your friends and family", says Google.

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90 percent of Android devices vulnerable to Godless malware

Android smartphone malware

When we take a look at the Android distribution updates that Google posts every month one thing seems to never change, and that is the overwhelming number of devices that run an outdated version of the operating system. As of early-June 2016, nearly 90 percent of the handsets with Google Play access are rocking Lollipop, Jelly Bean or another old distribution. Meanwhile, Marshmallow powers only 10.1 percent of Android devices.

And, as Trend Micro security researchers point out, that can be a serious problem in terms of security as there is a new family of malware, known as Godless, that affects "virtually any Android device running on Android 5.1 (Lollipop) or earlier". Using Google's figures, that's 89.9 percent of the Android handsets in use. What's really worrying is that this malware is actually linked to apps available in major app stores, like Google's Play, and it has already made 850,000 victims across the globe.

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Google prompt makes two factor authentication less of a hassle

Google prompt

Two factor authentication is one of the most convenient options for securing a user account, which is why you will find this feature available in many of the top cloud services. It can be argued though that it can be made even easier to deal with, specifically in cases when users frequently need to access their accounts from new devices.

The problem there is that, the way that it is typically implemented, users usually have to get a verification code via SMS or retrieve it from a dedicated app to finish the authentication process, which is something that many folks may find very annoying over time. So, to make the whole process easy for its users, Google is now rolling out a new option for two-factor authentication, known as Google prompt.

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Facebook Messenger is turning into a social coach

Facebook Messenger new features social

There comes a time when the company behind a popular product feels the need to do more, probably because it has reached a point where there is little that can be done to improve what has made it such a success in the first place. That is also the moment when things tend to go south as far as the user experience is concerned.

Facebook Messenger has reached that point. The social network has one of the most-popular messaging apps today, boasting over 900 million active users every month, but instead of keeping things simple it is now trying to turn Messenger into what I can only describe as a social coach.

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Wearable shipments will break past 100 million mark in 2016

wearable watch

The wearables market is expected to grow by 29 percent in 2016, with IDC expecting more than 100 million units to be shipped by the end of the year. Two categories will account for the vast majority of shipments, namely wrist bands -- 51.4 million units -- and watches -- 41.8 million units.

IDC predicts that other types of wearables, like eyewear and clothing, will make for just 8.7 million units, out of the total of 101.9 million wearables it expects to be moved in 2016. The market as a whole is expected to see a 20.3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach 213.6 million units in 2020.

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Opera now lets you block ads on Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile

Opera Mini Android iOS Windows Phone 10 Mobile ad blocker

Opera Software made a bold move earlier this year when it introduced a native ad-blocker in its desktop Opera browser. While controversial, this feature is not enabled by default though promises to offer some major benefits, like a 40 percent boost in performance compared to an extension like AdBlock Plus.

However, folks are not only saying "No" to advertisements on their PCs but also on their smartphones and tablets. In fact, mobile ad-blocking usage has seen a 90 percent rise year-over-year, with more than 400 million devices said to run an ad-blocker. The latest versions of Opera Mini for iOS and Windows 10 Mobile and Opera for Android now cater to that growing audience too, as they too feature a built-in ad-blocker.

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Why is Microsoft buying LinkedIn? [Q&A]

Question

Major tech companies rarely manage to surprise us, but Microsoft did it earlier this week when it announced the acquisition of LinkedIn. The software giant is spending an enormous sum -- $26.2 billion, to be exact -- to get its hands on the popular business-focused social network. The new Microsoft likes to take chances, and this high-profile purchase is certainly proof of that.

CEO Satya Nadella says that buying LinkedIn will allow Microsoft to "change the way the world works", but what is its motivation behind the purchase, how does it tie into its current strategy, and what do the two companies stand to gain from it?

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Ransomware now targets your smart TV

Ransomware is an increasing security concern for IT professionals

While the ransomware threat is growing at an alarming rate, many consumers remain oblivious to the dangers posed by this form of malware. It is no wonder that infections are at a record level. And things will only get worse as ransomware creators target new types of devices.

Security researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a new ransomware, referred to as FLocker, that targets Android-powered smart TVs. When activated, it locks the device and asks the user to pay "a fine" to enable full functionality again. Interestingly enough, it takes the ransom in iTunes gift cards, not Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.

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How to automatically mount a network drive on Mac OS X

Apple MacBook Air laptop hands keyboard office desk

To quickly and easily access a network drive from your Mac you can configure OS X to automatically mount the volume after booting up. That way, after you turn on or restart your Mac, you will be able to get to your files in no time. But, how can you do that?

While it is very easy to access the network drive, figuring out how to set up OS X to automatically mount it is not. That is because there is no magic button to click on in the volume's settings or an obvious option to enable in System Preferences. So, where does that leave you?

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How to remove location data from your photos

pin map location

Saving the location in photos you take with your smartphone, tablet or camera is a good idea if you want to keep track of where you've captured those moments. Some services, like Google Photos, will do that for you automatically, showing a history of places you've been based on their coordinates. However, when it comes time to share your photos online, you may want to remove the location data.

The location data, alongside other types of identifiable information, will also be shared alongside them, potentially exposing you and your loved ones to all sorts of complications as a result. Fortunately, you can remove the location data from your photos. Here is how you can do that.

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